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Name: In re Chavez
Case #: H025709
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/05/2004

Petitioners were sentenced to prison in 1998 for filing false tax returns under Revenue and Tax Code section 19705. At the time they were sentenced, the designated punishment was “not more than three years.” The trial court interpreted that language as calling for an indeterminate sentence and sentenced them accordingly. In 2001, the statute was amended to be a determinate term. In habeas proceedings, petitioners argued that the amended statute should be applied retroactively to them, and the superior court granted the writ. Here, the appellate court affirmed. The Legislature intended the period of incarceration provided by the 2001 amendment to section 19705 to apply retroactively. The fact that the petitioners’ judgments were final prior to the passage of the amendments does not bar application of the new sentence to them. A final judgment is not immune from the Legislature’s power to adjust prison sentences for a legitimate public purpose.