Where trial court pronounced an aggregate sentence for multiple felony convictions in three separate cases, it could reimpose prior prison term enhancements, subject to Proposition 47, after all but one of the offenses were reduced to misdemeanors. In May 2014 Acosta was sentenced in three separate cases. The sentence in case 2 included six years for six prior prison term enhancements (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)). In case 1, the trial court purported to dismiss the six prior prison term enhancements because the same enhancements had been used to add six years to Acosta’s sentence in case 2. After Proposition 47 passed, Acosta successfully petitioned to reduce all but one of his felony offenses in the three cases to misdemeanors. When the trial court resentenced Acosta on the remaining felony in case 1, the sentence included six years for the previously dismissed prior prison term enhancements. On appeal, Acosta argued the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction by enhancing the sentence with the six previously dismissed prior prison term enhancements. Held: Subject to Proposition 47, trial court had authority to reimpose the prior prison term enhancements. Prior prison term enhancements are status enhancements that can be imposed only once, on the aggregate sentence. The trial court’s purported dismissal of the six enhancements in case 1 was not a true dismissal. The sole reason for the “dismissal” was that the enhancements had already been imposed in case 2 and therefore could not be imposed again to increase the aggregate sentence. When the trial court resentenced appellant to a misdemeanor in case 2, the prior prison term enhancements in that case became inapplicable because they can be imposed only where the new offense is a felony. “Subject to Proposition 47, they remained available for sentencing purposes because they had been imposed on the aggregate sentence and were not attached to a particular count or case.”
Trial court must strike three of the prior prison term enhancements because the underlying felonies were reduced to misdemeanors and the judgment containing the enhancements was not final when Proposition 47 took effect. During Acosta’s Proposition 47 proceedings, the trial court also reduced the felony convictions that were underlying three of the prior prison term enhancements to misdemeanors. However, the trial court still imposed the prior prison term enhancements that were based on these offenses. Relying on the California Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Buycks (2018) 5 Cal.5th 857, which was decided after Acosta’s resentencing, the Court of Appeal remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to strike the three prior prison term enhancements based on the felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47. In Buycks, the court held that “a successful Proposition 47 petitioner may subsequently challenge, under subdivision (k) of section 1170.18, any felony-based enhancement that is based on that previously designated felony, now reduced to misdemeanor, so long as the judgment containing the enhancement was not final when Proposition 47 took effect.” Acosta’s judgment was not final when Proposition 47 took effect on November 5, 2014. “Therefore, Buycks requires the trial court to strike the three prior prison term enhancements based on felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47.” On remand, the trial court shall conduct a full resentencing so it can exercise its sentencing discretion in light of changed circumstances.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/B263849A.PDF