caclr_header_template1 California Criminal Law Reporter

Recent Defense Victories

Erroneous “kill zone” instruction was harmless in attempted murder case given the overwhelming evidence that defendant intended to kill all five men at whom he shot. (178)
The trial court erred by instructing the jury that the element of specific intent to kill required for an attempted murder conviction could be found based on the “kill zone” theory. The instruction was erroneous following People v. Canizales (2019) 7 Cal.5th 591. However, the error was harmless in light of the overwhelming evidence that defendant intended to kill all five of the men at whom he shot.
People v. Mariscal ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2899 (2nd Dist. 2020) March 30, 2020 (B262278)
Defendant faced with the imposition of the minimum restitution fine or assessments must be given the opportunity to show he lacks the ability to pay. (803)
Defendant argued that under People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157, the trial court violated his due process rights by imposing $70 in assessments and the $300 restitution fine - both of which are statutory minimums, without determining his ability to pay. Counsel at sentencing informed the court that defendant did not have the ability to pay. Upon proper objection, a sentencing court must allow a defendant facing imposition of a minimum restitution fine or assessments to present evidence and argue why the fees exceed his ability to pay. The analysis is not based on due process but rather by the excessive fines clauses of the state and federal constitutions. The matter was remanded to allow defendant to present evidence of his inability to pay now or in the future.
People v. Cowan ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2854 (1st Dist. 2020) March 27, 2020 (A156253)
Prop 47 does not require court to draw a distinction under Vehicle Code section 10851 between permanent and temporary vehicle takings. (105a)
Prop 47 doesn’t require courts to draw a distinction under section 10851 between permanent and temporary vehicle takings - granting sentencing relief to those who take vehicles permanently but denying relief to those who take vehicles temporarily. A person who has unlawfully taken a vehicle in violation of section 10851 is not disqualified from Prop 47 relief because the person cannot prove he or she intended to keep the vehicle away from the owner indefinitely.
People v. Bullard ____ Cal.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2567 (2020) March 23, 2020 (S239488)
SB 1437 is constitutional. (147)
SB 1437 limits the application of the felony murder rule and murder based on the natural and probable consequences doctrine by modifying the mens rea element of those crimes. It does not modify any prior initiative and is not unconstitutional.
People v. Solis ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2454 (4th Dist. 2020) March 18, 2020 (G057510)
The natural and probable consequences doctrine cannot prove attempted murder. (147)
SB 1437 abrogates the natural and probable consequences doctrine in attempted murder prosecutions. Defendant was prosecuted under both a valid direct aiding and abetting legal theory and the invalid NPC theory. Since the theory used by the jury to convict could not be determined, the attempted murder conviction was reversed.
People v. Sanchez ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2342 (5th Dist. 2020) March 16, 2020 (F076838)
Emergency aid and exigent circumstance exceptions to the warrant requirement did not apply where police entered a house after seeing a running car in a driveway where no one answered the door, and the good faith exception did not apply. (396)
Officers observed an unoccupied running car in a residential driveway at night and what appeared to be a dark residence with a porch light on and the front door locked. No one responded to the door bell or knocks and the officers could not see or hear anything inside. They then moved to a side door and entered. While police may have believed there was a medical emergency, no facts reasonably supported that concern. Moreover, the facts did not establish an exigent circumstance allowing the warrantless entry. The good-faith exception did apply because the community caretaking exception relied on here (People v. Ray (1999) 21 Cal.4th 464) was a plurality decision that did not constitute binding authority.
People v. Smith ____ Cal.App.5th ____, ____ Cal.Rptr.3d ____, 2020 D.A.R. 2271 (4th Dist. 2020) March 12, 2020 (D075372)