Articles Posted in New Criminal Case Law

People v. Saldana (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 1270 [316 Cal.Rptr.3d 319, 321–326]

Summary: In 2013, Saldana was found guilty of possession for sale of a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, § 11378) and he was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison as a three strikes offender. At the time, the trial court imposed and stayed four prior prison term enhancements found true under Penal Code section 667.5, subdivision (b).

Years later, defense counsel moved to strike the four prior prison term enhancements under section 1172.75 and requested a full resentencing under that statute and People v. Buycks (2018) 5 Cal.5th 857, 236 Cal.Rptr.3d 84, 422 P.3d 531. The trial court applied section 1172.75 to strike the previously stayed enhancements but declined to conduct a full resentencing due to the enhancements’ status as stayed.

Jeanette SARMIENTO, Petitioner, v.The SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Respondent;The People, Real Party in Interest. D082443; Filed January 9, 20242024 WL 94326 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.), 1

Summary: Sarmiento requested mental health diversion (Pen. Code, § 1001.361) after being charged with  attempted robbery. Sarmiento had handed a liquor store clerk a note written in lipstick on a napkin saying, “Let me get the money.” The store employees did not give her any money but called 911.

A psychiatric evaluation submitted in support of Sarmiento’s request for diversion diagnosed her as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder, and stimulant use disorder specific to methamphetamine. The PTSD  was a result of  years of sexual trauma she suffered as a child and adolescent.  Sarmiento never received treatment for her foundational mental health diagnoses of PTSD and depression, and she self-medicated. Her failure to address the foundational mental health issues led to relapse and a resumption of criminal behavior.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent v.DEMETRIUS COLEMAN,Defendant and Appellant. A165198; Filed 1/5/20242024 WL 64082 (Cal.App. 1 Dist.)

Summary: A defense attorney’sadvice to a defendant to speak in his or her own voice when he or she testifies does not indicate bias or animus toward a defendant because of his or her race, ethnicity, or national origin. The California Racial Justice Act of 2020 (RJA) (Stats. 2020, ch. 317) is not violated when a testifying defendant follows an attorney’s advice to speak authentically and in his normal manner, even if the result is that the defendant testifies using slang terms, a certain accent, or a certain linguistic style.

Coleman was convicted by a jury of first degree murder with special circumstances that the murder was intentional and perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle (Pen. Code, §§ 187, subd. (a), 190.2, subd. (a)(21))1 and an enhancement for personally and intentionally discharging a firearm causing great bodily injury or death. (§ 12022.53, subd. (d).)

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Francisco Andres ALVAREZ, Defendant and Appellant.

2023 WL 9014911 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.), 1

 Summary: In Mitchell v. Wisconsin (2019) 588 U.S. –––– [139 S.Ct. 2525] (Mitchell),  the United States Supreme Court held when a “driver is unconscious and therefore cannot be given a breath test … the exigent-circumstances rule almost always permits a blood test without a warrant.” (Id. at p. 2531 (plur. opn. of Alito, J.).)

Adam WALSWORTH, Petitioner, v.The SUPERIOR COURT OF SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest.C098517; Filed December 20, 2023

2023 WL 8797474 (Cal.App. 3 Dist.), 1

Summary: The Court of Appeal directed the  respondent court to issue an order granting  Walsworth’s motion to dismiss his case. He was denied the statutory right to a speedy trial, and there was no good cause for the undue delay.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v.ALEXANDER ALBERTO FRIAS, Defendant and Appellant. 2023 WL 8658552 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.)

Summary: Frias appealed his conviction after the jury found him guilty of stalking. Frias claimed that the trial court, in denying his four requests to substitute the Castaneda Law firm as his counsel, violated his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of his choice. Here, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Frias’s first three requests to substitute in the Castaneda firm because the firm’s attorneys were not ready for trial and the case had been pending for three years, during which time four different attorneys had handled Frias’s defense at his request. The denial of Frias’s fourth request was an abuse of discretion.

At the time of the fourth request, the case had been pending for three-and-a-half years, the case was set for trial and the prosecutor and deputy public defender had announced ready for trial. This time, however, an attorney from the Castaneda firm announced he was ready for trial. Although the trial court was concerned that the Castaneda firm’s attorneys would seek a further continuance to prepare for trial once the firm was appointed, or that Frias on the day of trial would yet again seek to substitute in new counsel. Nothing in the record shows that the Castaneda firm was not prepared for trial, and the court did not make a further inquiry to confirm its suspicion the firm was not ready. The court’s concerns were not sufficient grounds on which to deny Frias’s request to have retained counsel of his choice. If the Castaneda firm’s attorneys later requested a continuance or Frias requested new counsel, the court retained the discretion to deny the requests.

People v. Banks (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 20, 2023, No. 2D CRIM. B312618) 2023 WL 8010242, at *1, reh’g denied (Dec. 6, 2023)

 Summary: Banks appealed from the judgment after a jury convicted him of human trafficking of a minor. Banks argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a warrantless search of his vehicle and that the prosecutor committed misconduct during argument. The Court of Appeal affirmed.

Traffic stop and vehicle search

Phillips v. Gordon (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 29, 2023, No. A165289) 2023 WL 8266154, at *1–2

Summary: Phillips appealed from the trial court’s denial of her petition for review of an order of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) suspending her driver’s license for driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. Phillips argues the trial court erred because the DMV failed to provide sufficient evidence of the reliability of the way in which her blood was collected for the BAC test. She contends she rebutted the presumption that the certified phlebotomy technician (CPT) drew her blood in a proper manner by showing that the CPT was not supervised and the procedure she followed was not approved as required by applicable regulations and statutes. The Court of Appeal agreed that Phillips rebutted the presumption of reliability but  affirmed  the trial court’s order because evidence introduced at the hearing nonetheless established the reliability of the manner of collection of Phillips’ blood.

Background:One night in September 2020, around 11:23 p.m., a California Highway Patrol officer pulled Phillips over and arrested her for driving under the influence in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152, subdivision (a). The officer’s partner took Phillips to a facility in Burlingame and requested a phlebotomist.

People v. Trammel (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 21, 2023, No. A166756) 2023 WL 8060573, at *1

Summary: Trammel challenged the trial court’s sentence of an aggregate 12-year prison term for numerous convictions arising out of his violent relationship with his former girlfriend. The Court of Appeal agreed with Trammel that the trial court erroneously failed to stay the punishment for two convictions pursuant to Penal Code section 654 and remanded the matter for a full resentencing. (People v. Trammel (June 30, 2022, A161381) 2022 WL 2353314 [nonpub. opn.].

On remand, the trial court corrected its section 654 errors, resentencing Trammel to a total prison term of 12 years, four months. In this second appeal, Trammel argues that his new sentence violates the  prohibition against double jeopardy set forth in Article I, section 13 of the California Constitution. The Court of Appeal agreed and remanded to correct this error and an  error with respect to custody credits.

Zepeda v. Superior Court of City and County of San Francisco (Cal. Ct. App., Nov. 13, 2023, No. A166159) 2023 WL 7484868, at *1

 Summary: This case decided several issues about  Senate Bill No. 567. Senate Bill 567 amended Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (b)(2) to provide that, when a statute specifies three possible terms of imprisonment, the trial court cannot impose a sentence exceeding the middle term unless it finds that a longer sentence is justified by “circumstances in aggravation of the crime” and “the facts underlying those circumstances” have been stipulated to by the defendant or have been found true beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury at trial. Before Senate Bill 567, under the sentencing scheme in place since 2007, trial judges had the discretion to impose the lower, middle, or upper term of imprisonment based on their own assessment of which term best served the interests of justice, without making any factual findings.


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