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Name: People v. Brown
Case #: E059809
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/30/2014

A trial court’s discretion to strike a prior felony conviction in the furtherance of justice does not extend to determinations of an inmate’s eligibility for resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act (Prop. 36). Brown was sentenced to an indeterminate life sentence under the Three Strikes law. In 2013, he petitioned for resentencing under the Reform Act. (Pen. Code, § 1170.126.) The prosecutor opposed the petition, arguing that Brown was statutorily ineligible based on his prior convictions, and because he posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. Brown argued that the court had inherent power to strike priors in the interest of justice under section 1385 and People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, and that power extended to striking a strike to make an inmate eligible for resentencing under Proposition 36. Noting that Brown was ineligible for resentencing under the Act, the trial court denied the petition. Brown appealed. Held: Affirmed. Brown’s prior conviction for oral copulation by force disqualified him from resentencing under the Act. (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (e)(3).) Here, the appellate court concluded that, based on the plain language of section 1170.126 and the voter’s intent, a trial court does not have the authority under section 1385 to determine eligibility for resentencing under section 1170.126. The plain language of section 1170.126, subdivision (e) clearly provides that an inmate must first satisfy the criteria set forth in the subdivision before he or she can be resentenced under the Act. A trial court’s discretion to determine whether relief would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (f)) does not extend to the initial eligibility requirements of subdivision (e). Further, the ballot materials for the Act did not state that a trial court would have discretion to determine eligibility notwithstanding the criteria set forth in subdivision (e).