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Name: People v. Dobson
Case #: F069588
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/01/2016

The resentencing provisions of Proposition 36 (Pen. Code, § 1170.126) do not apply to defendants who were found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) and committed to a state hospital. In 1998 Dobson pleaded guilty to vehicle theft (Veh. Cod, § 10851, subd. (a)) and admitted four strike priors. He also entered an NGI plea. The trial court found him NGI and committed him to Patton State Hospital for a maximum term of confinement of 25 years to life. In March 2014, Dobson petitioned to modify his maximum term of confinement pursuant to Proposition 36 (Pen. Code, § 1170.126). The trial court found that NGI defendants are ineligible for resentencing. Dobson appealed. Held: Affirmed. When a defendant is found to be NGI and committed to a state hospital, the maximum term of confinement is equal to the longest term of imprisonment that could have been imposed for the offenses of which the defendant was convicted (Pen. Code, § 1026.5, subd. (a)(1)). Although Dobson’s conviction was for a felony that is not serious or violent, he had four strike priors. Thus, at the time of his plea, his maximum term of confinement was 25 years to life in prison. Were he committed today, Dobson’s maximum term of confinement would be six years. The Strike Reform Act of 2012 revised the Three Strikes law, reserving a Three Strikes life sentence for cases where the current crime is serious or violent or where the prosecution pleads and proves certain disqualifying factors (Pen. Code, §§ 667, 1170.12). Penal Code section 1170.126, which provides the procedure whereby qualified defendants may seek resentencing, only applies to qualified defendants who are currently serving an indeterminate term of imprisonment. Dobson was committed to a state hospital. Therefore, he is plainly excluded from the scope of the statute.

Exclusion of NGI committees from petitioning for Proposition 36 relief does not deny equal protection of the law. The rational basis test is applied to equal protection challenges based on sentencing disparities. Under this test, “equal protection of the law is denied only where there is no rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate state purpose.” The person challenging the law has the burden of negating every conceivable basis that might support the statutory disparity. Dobson has not shown he was similarly situated to felons convicted of the same or similar offenses at the time he was committed, because the purpose of the Strikes Reform Act was to relieve prison overcrowding by releasing certain nonviolent prison inmates, and Dobson has not shown that state hospitals are similarly overcrowded. He is not similarly situated to present-day felons convicted of the same offense because his judgment became final long ago and the timing of the effective date of a punishment-lessening statute does not violate equal protection.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: