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Name: People v. Hernandez
Case #: C067260
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/11/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 4/1/2015: S224383

Juvenile offender’s sentence of 61 years to life for nonhomicide offenses violates the Eighth Amendment despite the fact that Penal Code section 3501 (SB 260) allows him to seek parole after 25 years. Hernandez was convicted of two counts of attempted murder and other offenses committed when he was 16 years old. On appeal he challenged his 61-years-to-life sentence as cruel and unusual punishment. Held: Reversed and remanded. In Graham v. Florida (2010) 560 U.S. 48, the Court found a sentence of LWOP imposed on a juvenile nonhomicide offender unconstitutional. The Court in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 183 L.Ed.2d 407, held the age of a minor, his background and emotional development must be considered at sentencing in determining his culpability for a crime. In People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262, the court held the Eighth Amendment requires the state to afford the juvenile offender a meaningful opportunity to obtain release upon demonstrating maturity and rehabilitation. In response to these cases, the Legislature enacted SB 260 (eff. January 1, 2014), which establishes a mechanism by which defendants serving a life term for offenses committed as a minor may obtain release upon demonstrating he/she has gained maturity and been rehabilitated (Pen. Code, § 3051). However, this statute does not render Hernandez’s de facto LWOP sentence constitutional. As the Caballero court found, “the state may not deprive [a defendant] at sentencing of a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate [his] rehabilitation and fitness to reenter society in the future.” Although it provides a “safety net” to ensure a juvenile offender has an opportunity to obtain release during his lifetime, SB 260 “does not substitute for the sentencing court’s consideration of all individual characteristics of the offender” as required. [Editor’s Note: This issue is currently pending in the California Supreme Court. (In re Alatriste (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232, review granted 2/19/2014 (S214652/B248072); In re Bonilla (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232, review granted 2/19/2014 (S214960/B248199).)]