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Articles Posted in New Criminal Case Law

The People, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Sheldon Vaughn Silas et al., Defendants and Appellants. (Cal. Ct. App., Sept. 17, 2021, No. A150512) 2021 WL 4236771

Summary: Defendants Sheldon Silas, Reginald Whitley, Lamar Michaels, and Linda Chaney, all of whom are Black, were tried for crimes related to the murders of Christopher Zinn and Brieanna Dow, who were also Black. The  prosecutor used peremptory strikes against three Black prospective jurors, including one who expressed support for Black Lives Matter. Defendants brought Batson/Wheeler motions to challenge the exclusion.

T]he use of peremptory challenges to remove prospective jurors on the sole ground of group bias violates the right to trial by jury drawn from a representative cross-section of the community under article I, section 16, of the California Constitution.” (People v. Wheeler (1978) 22 Cal.3d 258, 276-277.)

People v. Grabham (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 31, 2021, No. A160384) 2021 WL 3909628, at *1

Summary:  Grabham was convicted of violating Vehicle Code 1 section 23152, subdivision (a) (section 23152(a)) and section 23152, subdivision (b) (section 23152(b)). Grabham arguesd that section 23152(a) and (b) are different statements of the same offense and Penal Code section 954 trequires vacatur of one of his convictions. The First Appellate District concluded that section 23152(a) and (b) are separate offenses and Grabham may properly be convicted of both. 

Facts: California Highway Patrol Officers initiated  a traffic stop due to Grabham’s cellphone use and expired registration. After smelling alcohol coming from the truck and observing that Grabham’s eyes were red and watery and that his speech was slurred a full DUI investigation was conducted.

People v. Roberts (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 20, 2021, No. C081843) 2021 WL 3700319, at *1

Summary: Roberts’ DNA had been collected after an unrelated felony arrest  for which he was not charged. Based primarily on the DNA evidence, a jury found him guilty of murder in the first degree and he was sentenced to an aggregate term of 26 years to life.

Issue: Whether using a DNA sample taken from a defendant who is validly arrested for a felony on probable cause but never formally charged, violates the defendant’s federal or state constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure or his state constitutional right to privacy.

People v. Tan (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 19, 2021, No. B308687) 2021 WL 3673888, at *1–2

Summary: Tan was convicted of robbery and first degree murder. In 2020, the trial court vacated Tan’s murder conviction under Penal Code  section 1170.95, resentenced him on the robbery count, and ordered him released on time served. The court also imposed a three-year parole term. Tan appealed and claimed that  section 3000.01, which was enacted before he was resentenced in this case, limits his parole term to two years. The People conceded the point, and, as a matter of first impression, the court of appeal  agreed and modifed Tan’s sentence to reflect a two-year parole term.

Legal Principles and Standard of Review for an Unauthorized Sentence and Section 3000.01

People v. Sup. Ct. (Espeso); BS 175803; 7/14/21; Los Angeles Superior Court App. Div. ruled no diversion for DUI

People v. Sup. Ct. (Diaz‑Armstrong); APR12100008; 7/27/21; Riverside Sup. Ct. App. Div.-ruled diversion available for DUI

There is a split on this question. The Riverside Superior Court appellate division says that 23640 does not bar diversion for a misdemeanor DUI.  

People v. Clark (Cal. Ct. App., July 29, 2021, No. A158238) 2021 WL 3205435, at *1

Summary: Clark appealed and challenged the imposition of a monthly $100 probation supervision fee, following a violation of his probation while his  appeal was pending. Assembly Bill 1869 repealed the statute authorizing the probation supervision fee, Penal Code section 1203.1b.

Clark argued that he is entitled to the retroactive benefit of Assembly Bill 1869, and  asked that  the court order vacatur of the fee imposed on him under section 1203.1b.

People v. Bryant (Cal., July 29, 2021, No. S259956) 2021 WL 3201079, at *1

Summary: The 2011 Realignment Act (Stats. 2011, ch. 15, § 1; Realignment Act or Act) provides for a period of mandatory supervision after a county jail sentence for eligible defendants. The California Supreme Court assessed the validity of a challenged condition of mandatory supervision  and concluded that discretionary conditions are to be evaluated for reasonableness on a case-by-case basis under the test set out in People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481, 124 Cal.Rptr. 905, 541 P.2d 545 (Lent).

Facts: Bryant was convicted of carrying a concealed firearm in a vehicle.  (Pen. Code,1 § 25400, subds. (a)(1) & (c)(6).) The court imposed a split sentence (§ 1170, subd. (h)(5)), of two years in the county jail, with the last 364 days to be served at large on mandatory supervision. Over Bryant’s objection, the court imposed the following condition: “Defendant is to submit to search of any electronic device either in his possession[,] including cell phone[,] and/or any device in his place of residence. Any search by probation is limited to defendant[’]s text messages, emails, and photos on such devices.”

People v. Lewis (Cal., July 26, 2021, No. S260598) 2021 WL 3137434, at *1

Summary: The California Supreme Court reviewed Senate Bill No. 1437 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015; Senate Bill 1437) which eliminated natural and probable consequences liability for murder and limited the scope of the felony murder rule. (Pen. Code, §§ 188, subd. (a)(3), 189, subd. (e), as amended by Senate Bill 1437.) Senate Bill 1437 also added section 1170.95 to the Penal Code,1 which creates a procedure for convicted murderers who could not be convicted under the law as amended to retroactively seek relief.

In this case, the court decided two issues.

People v. Schulz (Cal. Ct. App., July 20, 2021, No. F080978) 2021 WL 3047264, at *2–8

Summary: Schulz appealed  claiming that the trial court abused its discretion when it declined to reduce his felony convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol to misdemeanors pursuant to Penal Code section 17, subdivision (b).1 He also claims that under the Estrada presumption, he is entitled to relief under Assembly Bill No. 1950 (2019–2020 Reg. Sess.) which amended section 1203.1, subdivision (a), to limit probation for felony offenses to no more than two years, subject to certain exceptions. (Stats. 2020, ch. 328, § 2.)

The court ordered the parties to file supplemental letter briefs pursuant to Government Code section 68081, addressing whether, assuming Assembly Bill No. 1950 applies retroactively, defendant’s convictions for violation of Vehicle Code section 23153, subdivisions (a) and (b), qualify for a reduction in the probationary period under section 1203.1, subdivision (a), given that subdivision (m) of section 1203.1, which was added by Assembly Bill No. 1950, excludes “an offense that includes specific probation lengths within its provisions.” (See Veh. Code, § 23600, subd. (b)(1) [“If any person is convicted of a violation of Section 23152 or 23153 and is granted probation, the terms and conditions of probation shall include … a period of probation not less than three nor more than five years ….”].

People v. Stewart (Cal. Ct. App., July 9, 2021, No. E074907) 2021 WL 2883176, at *1

Summary: Stewart was honorably discharged from the Army in 1976 and suffers from schizophrenia related to his military service. In 1986 and a1992, he was convicted of first degree burglary. In 2001, after being convicted on two counts of spousal battery, he was sentenced, as a third-striker, to two consecutive terms of 25 years to life in prison.

In 2018, the Legislature amended section 1170.911 to allow  convicted veterans who suffers from a specified disorder as a result of their military service to petition for resentencing, so that that disorder may be considered as a mitigating factor when imposing a determinate term.

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