A youth offender granted parole under Penal Code section 3051 is not required to serve a consecutive sentence for an in-prison offense committed after age 25. In 1991, at age 21, Williams was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to 28 years to life. At age 26, he committed an in-prison battery, for which he was sentenced to an additional 8-year consecutive sentence. Williams was found suitable for parole in 2016, but the state held him to serve additional time for the in-prison offense. He filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that he should be released. Held: Petition granted. Generally, when inmates serving indeterminate sentences commit an in-prison offense and a consecutive term is imposed, that term begins on the date the inmate completes the indeterminate life term. (Pen. Code, § 1170.1, subd. (c).) However, section 3051 established a parole mechanism that provides a defendant serving a sentence for crimes he committed before age 25 with an opportunity to obtain release upon demonstrated rehabilitation. Under section 3051, a qualified offender who committed a controlling offense as a youth is entitled to a parole hearing after a fixed period of years, depending on his sentence. Subdivision (h) states that inmates who commit in-prison offenses after age 26 remain eligible for a parole suitability hearing, so long as any in-prison offense does not involve malice and does not provide for a life sentence. This reflects the Legislature’s intent to exempt youth offenders from the provisions of section 1170.1, subdivision (c) and supersedes that section in this context. The court agreed with In re Trejo (2017) 10 Cal.App.5th 972 that section 3051 renders an in-prison offense a factor to be considered in the decision to grant parole, even though it will not result in a consecutive sentence that must be served before release. Any other reading of section 3051 would thwart its legislative purpose.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B286241.PDF