How Very Small Details Can Potentially Make a Very Big Difference in Your California Criminal Case

There can be a variety of ways to achieve a successful result in your criminal case. One way is to succeed based upon the facts:  demonstrating that the factual proof within your case simply cannot support a conviction. Other times, you may be able to avoid, or obtain a reversal of, a conviction if you can show that the law will not allow for a conviction on the charge that the state alleged. In still other circumstances, you may be able to use a procedural misstep by the state to your benefit in your case. Sometimes, even seemingly small errors can have big consequences. To make sure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent of the law, be sure you have retained experienced San Francisco criminal defense counsel.

An example of the last of these things in the above list was on display in the case against Johnny from San Diego County. Johnny began dating Dulce in the summer of 2014. Some time later, he moved in with the woman and her family. At some point after that, the relationship became violent. On various occasions, Johnny assaulted both Dulce and her ex-boyfriend. From this series of alleged attacks, the state arrested Johnny and charged him with numerous offenses. Two of those charges were counts of “corporal injury to a cohabitant” in violation of Subsection 273.5(h)(1) of the Penal Code. Johnny was eventually convicted on all of the charges and sentenced to 22 years. The court arrived at that sentence through several sentencing enhancements, one of which was based upon the two 273.5(h)(1) offenses.

The man appealed and won a reduction of his sentence. The problem with the original sentencing process was that the charging document (called an “information”) stated that Johnny was being accused of violating Subsection 273.5(h)(1), but the sentencing enhancement that the state sought was the one connected to Subsection 273.5(f)(1).

The state argued in Johnny’s appeal that the sentence was legally acceptable because the case against Johnny laid out every element of a Subsection 273.5(f)(1) charge. The court of appeals explained that this didn’t matter. The sentence had to be overturned due to the legal principles of basic fairness and a criminal defendant’s fundamental constitutional rights. The Constitution says that a person who is accused of a crime is entitled to know exactly what the charges are against him in order “to have a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present a defense.” That right to know also includes knowing the precise sentencing enhancement bases that will be used to increase his sentence.

By stating only Subsection 273.5(h)(1) and making no mention of Subsection 273.5(f)(1), the prosecution and the trial court violated Johnny’s fundamental right to due process of law. This error was especially potentially harmful because the state made a plea bargain offer to Johnny, which he ultimately turned down. Not knowing about the possibility of a 273.5(f)(1) sentence enhancement affected that plea deal situation. Whether or not Johnny would have accepted or rejected the deal had he known about the possibly greater sentence enhancement, it was undeniable that the defendant was not able to make a fully informed decision when he decided what to do regarding the proposed plea arrangement.

Details matter in the law, and that is especially true in criminal law. To make sure that you have the effective defense you deserve, contact the experienced San Francisco criminal defense lawyers at Uthman Law Office. Our team has been providing detail-oriented and reliable service to our criminal defense clients for many years. Attorney David Uthman has over 20 years of experience as a litigation attorney and almost a decade of experience as a police officer. Put our knowledge of the law and the system to work for you. Call us today at (415) 556-9200 to schedule your FREE initial consultation to get the help you need.

More blog posts:

Immigrant’s 2001 California Misdemeanor Plea Deal Proves Harmful in Deportation Case, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 13, 2018

The Difference Between Domestic Battery and Simple Battery in California, San Francisco Criminal Lawyer Blog, Feb. 6, 2018