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Name: People v. Davis
Case #: A139111
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/26/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 6/10/2015: S225603
Summary

Trial court’s determination that an inmate would pose an “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” if resentenced under the Three Strikes Reform Act (Prop. 36) is reviewed under the abuse of discretion standard. Davis was sentenced to a life term under the Three Strikes Law for being a felon in possession of a firearm. After voters passed the Reform Act, he filed a petition for resentencing. The trial court denied his petition after concluding that, if resentenced, Davis would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. Davis appealed. Held: Affirmed. A trial court has considerable discretion to deny resentencing under the Reform Act if it believes a petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (f)-(g).) Its decision will only be reversed on appeal if it was an abuse of discretion. (People v. Aparicio (2015) 232 Cal.App.4th 1065, 1071-1075.) Here the trial court conducted a two day evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether Davis would pose an unreasonable risk of danger if resentenced and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that Davis would pose such a risk. Davis was unwilling and unable to discuss his commitment offense and the full extent of his criminal history. He had a history of returning to criminal conduct after being paroled and there was no firm basis for believing that his reentry plan, which involved living with his brother who had health and financial troubles, would stop Davis from committing another armed robbery. Additionally, Davis had no job skills or firm employment prospects, and it was possible that there would not be a family member to help restrain Davis’ rage and aggression. These circumstances, in addition to Davis’ criminal history, amply supported the trial court’s decision.

Definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” contained in Proposition 47 (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (c)) does not apply to resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (b)). On appeal, Davis argued that the new definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” contained in Proposition 47 should apply to resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act because Proposition 47 stated that the new definition applied “throughout this [Penal] Code.” (See Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (c).) The definition in Proposition 47 provides that a person is not an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety unless he poses an unreasonable risk of committing a new violent felony within the meaning of Penal Code section 667, subdivision (e)(2)(C)(iv), such as murder, a sex-offense, or an assault on a police officer with a machine-gun. The Court of Appeal refused to conclude that the drafters of Proposition 47 or the voters who enacted it intended the new definition to apply to Proposition 36 resentencing. The ballot materials nowhere mentioned that Proposition 47 would affect Proposition 36. A literal construction of Proposition 47’s definition would limit the expansive discretion that Proposition 36 granted trial courts just two years earlier and would lead to unreasonable results. Voters did not intend for Proposition 47’s definition “to hamstring the Three Strikes Reform Act.”