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Name: People v. Brown (2024) 101 Cal.App.5th 113
Case #: D081445
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 03/26/2024
Subsequent History: Ordered published 4/3/2024
Summary

Trial court did not err in denying defendant’s 2022 request for mental health pretrial diversion (Pen. Code, § 1001.36), where the denial occurred before statutory amendments went into effect on January 1, 2023. In 2022, the trial court denied defendant’s pretrial request diversion under section 1001.36 finding that he did suffer from a mental health disorder but that it did not contribute in any way to the offense. Defendant was subsequently convicted of two felonies in November 2022 and sentenced on January 11, 2023, ten days after the effective dates of certain amendments to section 1001.36. Held: Reversed. Prior to the 2023 amendments, section 1001.36 did not raise any presumption that a defendant’s diagnosed mental disorder was a significant factor in the commission of the underlying offense. Instead, the trial court was entitled to weigh the evidence and make a factual determination as to this criterion. Here, the Court of Appeal’s review was limited to whether substantial evidence supported the trial court’s finding under the pre-amendment statute. Under the statutory framework, as it stood in October 2022, the Court of Appeal concluded that “it was reasonable for the trial court to infer from the totality of evidence . . . that Brown was not suffering from paranoia or delusions at the time of the offense, and that his diagnosed schizophrenia did not substantially contribute to his commission of the offense.”

Defendant did not forfeit his right to assert the retroactivity of amendments to section 1001.36 by failing to bring a motion for reconsideration in the trial court at sentencing, ten days after the law amending section 1001.36 went into effect. The amendments to section 1001.36 that became effective on January 1, 2023, are retroactive. They decrease the burden on the defendant to establish one of the enumerated criteria—that their diagnosed mental health disorder was a significant factor in the commission of the crime. While defendant’s initial 1001.36 request was denied prior to these ameliorative amendments, sentencing occurred ten days after their effective date. The People argued that defendant forfeited the application of 1001.36’s amendments, arguing trial counsel could, and should, have brought a motion for reconsideration of his prior request for mental health diversion at or before sentencing. Under these very “narrow circumstances,” where ameliorative amendments became effective just days before defendant’s sentencing, the court disagreed with the People. “While it may have been preferable for Brown’s counsel to have moved for reconsideration of Brown’s request at the time of sentencing, we cannot fault Brown’s trial counsel for failing to seek reconsideration based on a recent amendment that had become effective only 10 days earlier, and that no court had yet found to be retroactive, particularly in light of [People v. Braden (2023) 14 Cal.5th 791’s] focus on the general requirement that such motions be brought prior to trial.” As such, the court conditionally reversed the judgment and remanded for further consideration under the amended statute.