Articles Posted in New Criminal Case Law

DEMOND FINLEY, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, Respondent; THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest. (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 30, 2023, No. A167311) 2023 WL 5620093, at *1

Summary: The San Francisco Superior Court erred in finding that Finley failed to make a prima case of an RJA violation, where the police officer stopped and searched his car for being parked in a “high crime area.” An expert testified that “high crime area” was routinely used by police to conduct pretext stops of Black people for minor offenses to search for contraband, and SFPD’s own stats showing Black people were stopped and searched at a higher rate than whites.

The Court of Appeal set a low prima facie bar in RJA cases and held that the trial court must accept the defenses proffered factual allegations and supporting evidence as true and could not consider the DA’s race-neutral counter evidence at the prima facie stage. The court remanded for a rehearing applying the proper prima facie standard.

CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS AND REHABILITATION, Petitioner, v. THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ALAMEDA COUNTY, Respondent; ROBERT L. ESCOBEDO, Real Party in Interest. (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 25, 2023, No. A166559) 2023 WL 5498785

Summary: Escobedo was placed on felony probation pursuant to a plea bargain. The  superior court permitted the People to withdraw a pending petition for revocation of parole that CDCR filed against Escobedo, who was on lifetime parole when he committed his offense. (Pen. Code, § 3000.1, subd. (a)(1).) The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) sought review by extraordinary writ challenging  the authority of the superior court to release Escobedo on probation, instead of adjudicating CDCR’s parole revocation petition and returning him to prison if the court finds that he has committed a new offense. (See § 3000.08, subd. (h) (section 3000.08(h)).)

Because Escobedo was on lifetime parole, the superior court lacked authority to release him on probation after finding that he committed a new criminal offense. Once the court found Escobedo had committed another crime, it was required to remand him to the custody of CDCR. (§ 3000.08(h).) The Court of Appeal granted  CDCR’s mandate petition.

People v. Superior Court of Ventura County (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 16, 2023, No. 2D CIV. B326653) 2023 WL 5258663, at *1

Summary: Penal Code section 1238, subdivisions (a)(1) and (a)(8) permit the People to appeal a superior court’s post-preliminary hearing, pretrial order reducing a felony “wobbler” to a misdemeanor because the order is unauthorized and equivalent to a dismissal of the felony offense.

A “wobbler” is “an offense which may be charged and punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor ….” (Davis v. Municipal Court (1988) 46 Cal.3d 64.) A “felony wobbler” is a wobbler charged as a felony offense.

People v. Suggs (Cal. Ct. App., July 31, 2023, No. C096555) 2023 WL 4861699

Summary: The Court of Appeal held that traffic stop was unlawfully prolonged when police officer saw temporary registration documents in window, realized defendant had not committed Vehicle Code violation that was purpose of stop, and then made inquiries aimed at finding evidence of ordinary criminal wrongdoing. Suggs appealed  from a judgment following entry of a plea of no contest to misdemeanor possession of a concealed firearm after the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence of the firearm and methamphetamine found in his vehicle. On appeal, Suggs argued the detention that preceded the search of his vehicle was unlawful under the Fourth Amendment.

Facts: Sacramento Police Officer Owen Anstess saw defendant driving a car that displayed only paper plates in violation of Vehicle Code section 5200 that requires a vehicle to attach license plates to both the front and back of the vehicle.  Officer Anstess initiated a traffic stop of Suggs because had seen the paperwork displayed in the window as required by law.

Coalition on Homelessness v. City and County of San Francisco (Cal. Ct. App., July 21, 2023, No. A164180) 2023 WL 4673776

Summary: Nonprofit organization brought action against city, municipal transportation agency, and police department challenging agency’s policy of towing safely and lawfully parked vehicles without a warrant based solely on the accrual of unpaid parking tickets, moving for writ of mandate and declaratory and injunctive relief. The Superior Court, San Francisco County, denied the organization’s motion. The organization appealed .

Holdings: The Court of Appeal held that: The community caretaking exception to warrant requirement was inapplicable to municipal transportation agency’s towing policy, and municipal transportation agency’s towing policy was not permissible under forfeiture rationale.

People v. Leal (Cal. Ct. App., July 25, 2023, No. C096463) 2023 WL 4729326, at *1

Summary: The Fourth Amendment’s guarantee of the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is fundamental. Generally warrantless searches are unreasonable. (Katz v. United States (1967) 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S.Ct. 507, 19 L.Ed.2d 576.) The automobile exception provides ‘police who have probable cause to believe a lawfully stopped vehicle contains evidence of criminal activity or contraband may conduct a warrantless search of any area of the vehicle in which the evidence might be found.’ ” (People v. McGee (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 796, 801.) The scope of a warrantless search is “defined by the object of the search and the places in which there is probable cause to believe that it may be found.” (United States v. Ross (1982) 456 U.S. 798, 824 (Ross).) Whether a warrantless search was justified under the automobile exception depends on the facts,  because probable cause exists “where the known facts and circumstances are sufficient to warrant a man of reasonable prudence in the belief that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found.” (Ornelas v. United States (1996) 517 U.S. 690, 696.)

The facts here were that the searching police officer received information via a radio broadcast from another officer that a juvenile on probation with a firearm restriction likely placed a firearm under the front passenger seat in Leal’s car before he  got into his car and drove away. Leal’s car was under constant surveillance from the time of the alleged firearm placement until the searching officer conducted the search. A search of the passenger compartment of his car found no firearm. Then, the searching officer decided to search the trunk, where he discovered a firearm. Leal was charged with several offenses and filed a motion to suppress the firearm; the trial court denied the motion. Leal pled no contest to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The issue is whether the search of Leal’s trunk was justified under the automobile exception.

People v. Carney (Cal., July 20, 2023, No. S260063) 2023 WL 4630861, at *1

Summary: In People v. Sanchez (2001) 26 Cal.4th 834 (Sanchez), the California Supreme Court upheld the first degree murder conviction of a defendant who had engaged in a gang-related shootout that left a bystander dead. It was unclear whether the defendant or a rival gang member had fired the fatal shot. However, the Court  held that the defendant’s “commission of life-threatening deadly acts in connection with his attempt on [the rival gang member’s] life was a substantial concurrent, proximate, cause of [the victim’s] death.”

This case  involves a gun battle among rivals, but unlike in Sanchez, the evidence conclusively established that the fatal shot was fired by someone other than the two defendants who were convicted of first degree murder. The

People v. Superior Court of Riverside County (Cal. Ct. App., July 11, 2023, No. E080076) 2023 WL 4444079, at *1

Riverside County Superior Court’s lack of judges and impact of COVID-19 pandemic

The Superior Court for the County of Riverside has not had enough judges for nearly twenty years. The Court was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It had to periodically suspend all jury trials and various deadlines, close courtrooms, and continue numerous matters.

In re D.L. (Cal. Ct. App., July 3, 2023, No. A164432) 2023 WL 4342391, at *1

Summary: D.L., a minor at the time of his offense, appealed his conviction for possession of a loaded firearm in San Francisco. (Pen. Code, § 25850, subd. (a).) Citing the United States Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (2022) ––– U.S. ––––, 142 S.Ct. 2111, 213 L.Ed.2d 387 (Bruen), D.L. argues that section 25850 must be unconstitutional on its face as a result of its relationship to California’s laws for obtaining a license to carry a concealed weapon. The Court rejected  D.L.’s contention and affirmed.

California’s “good cause” requirement for a concealed carry license

 THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. RAFAEL CAMPBELL, Defendant and Appellant. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. ANTHONY B. PRICE, Defendant and Appellant. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. STEPHON ANTHONY, Defendant and Appellant. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. SAMUEL FLOWERS, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., June 30, 2023, No. A162472) 2023 WL 4286790, at *22–23

Appellants Price, Campbell and Flowers contend that they were entitled to relief under section 1172.6 from their convictions of evading a police officer proximately causing death under Vehicle Code section 2800.3, subdivision (b). Appellants argued that these convictions were, in effect, murder convictions that were based on the same facts and natural and probable consequences theory as the second degree murder convictions and did not require personal intent to kill.

 1172.6 provides resentencing relief for defendants convicted of murder, attempted murder and manslaughter but not for violations of Vehicle Code section 2800.3, subdivision (b).

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