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Name: People v. Eslava
Case #: A142881
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 11/14/2016

Trial court violated the Sixth Amendment by determining that defendant’s prior battery conviction involved “personal infliction of serious bodily injury” and was therefore a serious felony for purposes of the Three Strikes law and a sentencing enhancement. Eslava was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He also admitted a prior 2009 conviction for battery causing serious bodily injury, which was the basis for a number of enhancements. Following a successful appeal, the Court of Appeal remanded for the trial court to determine whether Eslava’s prior battery conviction involved “personal infliction of serious bodily injury.” The trial court concluded that it did based on its examination of the police report that served as the factual basis for Eslava’s battery plea. As a result of this finding, the prior qualified as a serious felony and the trial court was able to sentence Eslava as a second strike offender and to impose an additional five-year prior serious felony enhancement (Pen. Code, § 667, subd. (a)). Eslava appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded. Relying on Deschamps v. United States (2013) 570 U.S. ___, a growing number of California appellate courts have held that “judicial factfinding, which looks beyond the elements of the crime to the record of conviction to determine what conduct ‘realistically’ underlaid the conviction, violates the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.” (People v. Marin (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 1344, 1363.) The Court of Appeal here agreed with Marin and related cases. The personal infliction fact in this case was not an element of Eslava’s battery offense. While Eslava stipulated to a factual basis (the police report) that included facts showing personal infliction, Descamps recognizes a Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial in this setting and Eslava did not knowingly waive this right. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the record that Eslava was aware that the police report contained facts regarding personal infliction and “it must be presumed that his conviction under section 243, subdivision (d) was for the least serious form of the offense.”

Previous dismissal of enhancement allegations as part of a plea agreement does not preclude People from seeking to prove the facts on which those allegations were based in a later proceeding. As part of Eslava’s plea agreement in the 2009 battery case, a personal infliction of bodily injury allegation was dismissed. “Generally . . . when a plea bargain calls for striking an enhancement, that merely means the enhancement cannot be used to enhance the current conviction. The plea bargain does not bar the use of the facts underlying the stricken enhancement in sentencing on a subsequent conviction.” (People v. Blackburn (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1520, 1527.) While Eslava may have believed that the People were barred from taking the position in a subsequent prosecution that his battery conviction may be used for sentence enhancement purposes, his subjective understanding of the plea agreement does not control. “Mutual assent is necessary to the formation of a contract [citation] and is determined under an objective standard applied to the outward manifestations or expressions of the parties, i.e., the reasonable meaning of their words and acts, and not their unexpressed intentions or understandings.”

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