Latest Criminal Cases

Trial Court may impose additional release conditions even after a defendant has posted bail

In re Webb, 2019 WL 2220410, S247074,May 23, 2019

Bettie Webb was arrested and charged with two felony counts of bringing controlled substances in to state prion and unauthorized possession of a controlled substance in a prison. She posted $50,000 bail and was released from custody. At arraignment, she pleaded not guilty to the charges. Over her objection, the court imposed, as an additional condition of release, that she waive her Fourth Amendment right to be free of warrantless or unreasonable searches.

Issue: May courts impose additional release conditions after bail is posted?

The Supreme Court granted review to decide whether, when a criminal defendant posts bail, the court has authority to impose additional release conditions. The Court granted the petition to resolve the conflict between the majority opinion in the Court of Appeal and the opinions in Gray 125 Cal.App.4th 629 and McSherry 112 Cal.App.4th 856, 5.

The Court did not decide whether the bail condition imposed in this case was a proper exercise of the trial court’s inherent authority because the question had become moot as to defendant.

The Court concluded that reasonable conditions imposed as conditions of release generally further the important legislative purpose of protecting public safety.

The Court ruled that trial courts the court does have authority to impose reasonable conditions related to public safety.

Enhancements must be plead for a sentence to be increased.

People v. Jimenez, 2019 WL 2136149 H044238; (May 16, 2019)

Defendant’s sentence of 25 years to life for each of his numerous sex offense counts violated his due process rights, where prosecutor failed to plead enhancement under statute governing felony sex offenses.

Jimenez contended that the trial court erred by sentencing him under Penal Code section 667.61, subdivision (j)(2) because the information only cited subdivisions (b) and (e) of that section, and the jury found the allegations true under those specific subdivisions. Subdivisions (b) and (e) would mandate a sentence of 15 years to life on each of the relevant counts; the trial court sentenced Jimenez to 25 years to life for each of those counts under section 667.61(j)(2). He argues that the failure to plead section 667.61(j)(2) requires us to remand the matter for resentencing because the imposition of terms under that section violated his due process right to notice. The Attorney General contends Jimenez forfeited this claim by failing to object but that no sentencing error occurred in any event. The Court of Appeal agreed with Jimenez that his right to due process was violated when he was sentenced under the uncharged sentencing enhancement. It reasoned that there would be less incentive to plea bargain if the extent of a defendant’s exposure to a lengthy term was uncertain.

DA need not directly ask about Defendant’s failure to explain or deny a charge to get a jury instruction.

People v. Grandberry; A152188; 2019 WL 2182949

After a jury trial, Henry Lee Grandberry was found guilty of unlawful possession of a dirk or dagger while confined in state prison. (Pen. Code,1 § 4502, subd. (a).) On appeal, Grandberry contends the trial court erred in instructing the jury—pursuant to CALCRIM No. 361—that it could draw an unfavorable inference from his failure to explain or deny incriminating evidence at trial. Grandberry maintained that the instruction was improper because he did explain or deny all of the evidence against him and because the form instruction violated his due process rights by unreasonably favoring the prosecution. The Court of Appeal rejected Grandberry’s constitutional argument and, concluded that the instruction was appropriate

The challenged jury instruction stated as follows: “If the defendant failed in his testimony to explain or deny evidence against him, and if he could have reasonably been expected to do so based on what he knew, you may consider his failure to explain or deny in evaluating that evidence. Any such failure is not enough by itself to prove guilt. The people must still prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If the defendant failed to explain or deny, it is up to you to decide the meaning and importance of that failure.”

CALCRIM No. 361 rests on the logical inference that if a person charged with a crime is given the opportunity to explain or deny evidence against him or her but fails to do so, then that evidence may be entitled to added weight. (Vega, supra, 236 Cal.App.4th at p. 496.)

Grandberry had accepted his placement in a restrictive segregated housing for possession of the weapon and failed to explain why he would do so if he were innocent of the charges. Therefore, there was an evidentiary basis for the CALCRIM No. 361 instruction.