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Name: People v. Coleman
Case #: E074251
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/17/2021

Trial court erred in finding defendant’s Penal Code section 1170.91 petition for resentencing did not adequately allege a qualifying condition resulting from his military service. Defendant’s section 1170.91 petition alleged that he had been sexually molested while in the military, that he was subjected to narcotics abuse by other airmen and supervisors, and that he had encountered “numerous sporadic infrequent episodes of alcohol abuse” as almost a routine part of his military life, all of which “plausibly” accounted for his flawed decision making (i.e., his criminal behavior). The trial court found the petition did not sufficiently allege a service-related condition as required by the statute, and denied the petition without prejudice. Held: Reversed. Under section 1170.91, a defendant sentenced prior to January 1, 2015, who is, or was, a member of the United States military and who may be suffering from sexual trauma, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or mental health problems as a result of his or her military service may petition for a recall of sentence if that circumstance was not considered as a factor in mitigation at the time of sentencing. The statute merely requires a petitioner to allege that he or she “may” be suffering from a qualifying condition (§ 1170.91, subd.(b)(1)); it does not require a petitioner to allege evidentiary facts such as symptoms or manifestations of that condition. Nor does it require the petitioner to allege that the qualifying condition actually contributed to the commission of the crime. A reasonable reading of the petition is that defendant was averring that he (and not some other party) suffered from substance abuse and sexual trauma as a result of his military service. That is all the statute requires for the trial court to decide whether to exercise discretion and recall the sentence. On remand, the trial court must hold a new hearing, at which it may, in its discretion, resentence defendant. [Editor’s Note: Justice Menetrez filed a concurrence. In his view, defendant did not sufficiently allege that he may be suffering from substance abuse, but did sufficiently allege that he may be suffering from sexual trauma as a result of his military service.]