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Name: In re Hunter W.
Case #: D079942
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/15/2023

In a juvenile delinquency case, the matter is final for purposes of In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 once direct review of the dispositional order is exhausted. In 2016, the juvenile court placed minor H.W. on conditional probation after he admitted charges of assault with a deadly weapon and driving under the influence. Probation was later revoked and H.W. was committed to DJJ for the maximum term of seven years. This dispositional order was affirmed on direct appeal in 2019. In December 2021, H.W. filed a petition to modify the commitment order to six years under new law Senate Bill No. 823. The juvenile court found SB 823 did not apply retroactively to H.W.’s final judgment. H.W. appealed. Held: Affirmed. Among other changes, SB 823 (effective 9/30/2020) amended Welfare and Institutions Code section 731 to limit a minor’s maximum term of confinement to DJJ to the middle term of imprisonment that could be imposed upon an adult convicted of the same offense. Under Estrada, courts presume, absent evidence to the contrary, that ameliorative statutes apply retroactively to all defendants whose sentences are not final on the statute’s operative date. In an adult criminal proceeding, finality occurs for purposes of Estrada when the courts can no longer provide a remedy to a defendant on direct review. In juvenile proceedings, the dispositional order is the final step in the proceedings, and once the time to appeal the dispositional order has lapsed, the matter can no longer be challenged on direct review. By analogy, once direct review of the dispositional order is exhausted, the matter is final for purposes of Estrada. While it is true that the juvenile court maintains jurisdiction after the dispositional order, this continued jurisdiction does not eliminate the order’s finality for purposes of the retroactivity analysis.