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Name: People v. Bolanos
Case #: F082970
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/26/2023
Summary

The youthful offender parole scheme under Penal Code section 3051 does not, on its face, violate equal protection. Appellant was 22 years old when he committed various sex crimes for which he was sentenced to serve two LWOP terms and multiple terms of life in prison with parole terms under the One Strike law. He appealed. Held: Remanded for resentencing in unpublished portion. First, appellant contended that the youthful offender parole scheme violated equal protection. A youth offender parole hearing is a hearing to review the parole suitability of any prisoner who was 25 years of age or younger at the time of the controlling offense. (§ 3051, subd. (a)(1).) Youthful offender parole does not apply, however, to cases in which sentencing occurs pursuant to the One Strike law (§ 667.61), or where an individual is sentenced to LWOP for a controlling offense that was committed after the person had turned 18. (§ 3051, subd. (h).) Both exclusions apply in this case. A denial of equal protection is found only if there is no rational relationship between a disparity in treatment and some legitimate government purpose. First, relative to the One Strike exclusion, the court was “willing to assume” people sentenced under the One Strike law are similarly situated to all offenders eligible for youthful offender parole. But the disparate treatment under the One Strike exclusion is rationally supported by a concern for recidivism. Turning to the LWOP-as-an-adult exclusion, every court has rejected an equal protection challenge on this basis, finding the Legislature had a rational basis to distinguish between offenders with the same sentence (LWOP) based on their age. Therefore, the youthful offender parole scheme does not, on its face, violate equal protection. Because appellant did not raise an as-applied challenge to the youthful offender parole exclusion, this case is distinguishable from People v. Hardin (2022) 84 Cal.App.5th 273, 278, review granted 1/ 11/2023 (S277487).

There is no due process violation in sentencing appellant to a 15-year-to-life sentence under Penal Code section 667.61, subdivision (b) when the criminal information did not reference subdivision (b), but invoked the One Strike law and properly pled the qualifying special circumstance. Under the One Strike law, certain sex offenses require imprisonment for 15 years to life, 25 years to life, or LWOP, depending on the circumstances pled and proven. (§ 667.61.) Here, relative to the kidnapping charge in Count 5, the People charged two special allegations under section 667.61, subdivision (a), which authorizes a 25-year-to-life sentence. Because the jury found true only one of the allegations—the multiple victim circumstance—the parties agreed the 25-year-to-life sentence was unauthorized under section 667.61, subdivision (a). Appellant asserted that no One Strike sentence was permitted, because the charges alleging the circumstance only referenced subdivision (a), and not subdivision (b) which authorizes a 15-year-to-life sentence if the multiple victim circumstance is found true. However, the court held that the trial court should pronounce a 15-year-to-life sentence pursuant to subdivision (b). Where the information puts the defendant on notice that a sentence enhancement will be sought, and further notifies him of the facts supporting the alleged enhancement, modification of the judgment for a misstatement of the enhancement statute is required only where the defendant has been misled to his prejudice. People v. Mancebo (2002) 27 Cal.4th 735, describing strict pleading and proof requirements under the One Strike law, requires the qualifying circumstances to be ‘pled and proved,’ not the punishment. Here, the information actually invoked the One Strike law and properly pled the multiple victim circumstance. Therefore, the information adequately notified appellant that the People were seeking a sentence under the One Strike law; it was unnecessary to further reference subdivision (b). Appellant made no attempt to demonstrate prejudice. Accordingly, there was no due process violation in this case.

The trial court did not err in failing to stay certain One Strike sentences pursuant to Penal Code section 654. The trial court pronounced consecutive One-Strike-law sentences for each sex-crime conviction committed against victim one, as charged in Counts 1, 2, and 3. Appellant contended that because each sentence was based on the same act of kidnapping and section 654 prohibits multiple punishment for the same act, the court could apply the One Strike law only to one count. The court disagreed. Section 654 does not bar multiple punishment simply because numerous sex offenses are rapidly committed against a victim, even with only one ultimate intent and objective. In this case, appellant committed three discrete One Strike crimes while substantially moving the victim between each crime. For this reason, it does not matter that kidnapping is a continuous crime; section 654 does not apply. In any event, section 667.61, subdivision (h) states “[n]otwithstanding any other law, probation shall not be granted to, nor shall the execution or imposition of sentence be suspended for, a person who is subject to punishment under” the One Strike law. The court agreed with People v. Caparaz (2022) 80 Cal.App.5th 669, 688-690, that this subdivision means section 654 does not apply to the One Strike law.

https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F082970.PDF