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Name: People v. Carrea
Case #: D068246
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/11/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 4/27/2016: S233011
Summary

A trial court is not required to strike a prior prison term enhancement in a case that is final where the underlying felony was subsequently redesignated as a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. In 2012, a jury found Carrea guilty of spousal battery (Pen. Code, § 273.5, subd. (a)). He admitted three prior prison term enhancements (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b)). In April 2015, the trial court granted Carrea’s Proposition 47 petition to reduce his prior theft (Pen. Code, § 484) and second degree burglary (Pen. Code, § 459) convictions to misdemeanors. He then petitioned to dismiss one of his prior prison term enhancements based on the reduction in the underlying offenses. The trial court denied the petition. Carrea appealed. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 47 added Penal Code section 1170.18, which provides a procedure whereby a qualified defendant may seek reduction of certain theft and drug felonies to misdemeanors. Under section 1170.18, subdivision (k) a felony that is reduced to a misdemeanor shall be a misdemeanor “for all purposes.” Subdivision (n), however, states that “[n]othing in this and related sections is intended to diminish or abrogate the finality of judgments in any case not falling within the purview of this act.” Thus, section 1170.18 allows relief for two categories of convictions: (1) a felony conviction for which a defendant is currently serving time that would now be a misdemeanor under Proposition 47; and (2) a felony conviction for which a defendant has completed a sentence that would now be a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. The statute applies to convictions of offenses and “does not provide for retroactive redesignation, dismissal, or striking of final pre-Proposition 47 sentence enhancements based on prior convictions that are subsequently reduced from felonies to misdemeanors pursuant to section 1170.18 . . . .”

The provision that any felony reduced to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 shall be considered a misdemeanor “for all purposes” does not allow retroactive relief from the collateral effects of those former felony convictions. Section 1170.18’s language allows only for the redesignation of felony convictions, not sentence enhancements. Subdivision (k)’s language “applies, at most, prospectively to preclude future or nonfinal sentence enhancements based on felony convictions redesignated as misdemeanors under [Proposition 47].” Further, to interpret subdivision (k) to allow for the striking of a sentence enhancement imposed in a pre-Proposition 47 case that is now final would “diminish or abrogate the finality of” the prior judgment “in contravention of section 1170.18, subdivision (n).”

In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 does not require the striking of a prior prison enhancement that was imposed in a case that was final prior to the effective date of Proposition 47 where the underlying felony offense was later reduced to a misdemeanor. Estrada established an exception to the general rule that no part of the Penal Code is retroactive unless expressly so declared (Pen. Code, § 3). “Where the amendatory statute mitigates punishment and there is no saving clause, the rule is that the amendment will operate retroactively so that the lighter punishment is imposed.” The Estrada rule applies in cases that are not yet final on the statute’s operative date and, for purposes of this rule, “a judgment is not final so long as courts may provide a remedy on direct review.” Here, Carrea’s 2013 judgment, in which the prison prior enhancement was imposed, became final in April 2014, before the November 5, 2014 effective date of Proposition 47. As a result, the Estrada rule did not apply.

Denial of defendant’s petition to strike his final, pre-Proposition 47 sentence enhancement does not deny equal protection of the law. Carrea argued the trial court’s denial of his motion to strike the prison prior enhancement violates equal protection because two similarly situated groups would be subject to different treatment. He argued that defendants who have yet to be sentenced would not receive a prison prior enhancement for an offense that has been reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 and that those defendants whose case was final before Proposition 47, would receive such an enhancement. However, “a refusal to apply a statute retroactively does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.” The equal protection clause is not violated where classes of criminal defendants are treated differently based on the effective date of a statute that reduces the punishment for a crime.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D068246.PDF