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Name: People v. Guzman
Case #: G049135
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/02/2015

Proposition 47’s definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” in Penal Code section 1170.18, subdivision (c) does not apply to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions. In 2006 appellant was given a 25-years-to-life three strikes sentence upon his conviction for receiving stolen property with five strike priors. After passage of the Three Strikes Reform Act (Prop. 36) in 2012, Guzman filed a resentencing petition. The trial court denied the petition, finding Guzman’s release would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 36 requires a trial court to resentence an otherwise qualified third strike offender to a two strike term unless the court, in its discretion, finds that sentence reduction would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (f).) Section 1170.126 does not define “unreasonable risk of danger.” In November 2014 the voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced certain felonies to misdemeanors and provides “as used throughout this Code, ‘unreasonable risk of danger to public safety’ means an unreasonable risk the petitioner will commit a” statutorily specified new violent felony. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (c).) Although the phrase “as used throughout this Code” clearly refers to the Penal Code, this does not mean that the “unreasonable risk of danger” definition provided in section 1170.18, subdivision (c) applies to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions. The sentencing scheme in each proposition addresses “different concerns impacting distinct categories of crimes, perpetrators, and victims.” Importing Proposition 47’s “unreasonable risk of danger” definition into Proposition 36 would significantly reduce the trial court’s discretion to deny third strikers’ petitions for resentencing, a possibility not mentioned in the Proposition 47 ballot materials and a result not intended by the voters. [Editor’s Note: This question is currently pending before the California Supreme Court. (See People v. Chaney (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1391, review granted 2/18/2015 (S223676/C073949); People v. Valencia (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 514, review granted 2/18/2015 (S223825/F067946).]

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Guzman’s petition. In denying his petition, the court considered Guzman’s criminal past, which included five residential burglaries, three deportations, an illegal re-entry into the United States, a drug trafficking conviction, and commission of the life commitment offense (which involved possession of burglary tools and jewelry stolen from a residence) while on supervised release. Guzman does not contest the court’s factual findings. The court did not abuse its discretion.