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Name: Gonzalez v. Duncan
Case #: 06-56523
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 12/30/2008

A sentence of 28 years to life under the “Three Strikes” law for a Penal Code section 290, subdivision (a)(1)(D) violation is grossly disproportionate to the offense and constitutes an unreasonable application of clearly established federal law. Appellant was convicted of failing to update his sex offender registration within five days of his birthday, although he was acquitted of failing to register a change of address. Having prior criminal convictions for serious or violent felonies, he was sentenced to prison for 28 years to life. The sentence was upheld by the California courts and the United States District Court denied appellant’s habeas petition. The Ninth Circuit, issuing a certificate of appealability to determine if the sentence violated the Eight Amendment, weighed the gravity of the commitment offense and appellant’s criminal history and concluded that the sentence was grossly disproportionate to the passive, harmless, and technical violation of this aspect of the registration law. Although properly stating the objective factors utilized in a gross disproportional review (Solem v. Helm (1983) 463 U.S. 277), the California Court of Appeal failed to apply the factors reasonably to the facts of appellant’s case, such that the federal appellate court found that appellant was entitled to habeas relief.