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Name: People v. Hilburn (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 189
Case #: D080175
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/05/2023

Under amended Penal Code section 1170, the sentencing court’s consideration of aggravating and mitigating factors in selecting the middle term did not implicate defendant’s Sixth Amendment jury trial rights. Defendant, who was under 26 years old when he committed the underlying crimes, agreed to plead guilty to a robbery charge with a firearm enhancement in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining charges and a sentencing lid of 13 years. At sentencing, the court considered aggravating and mitigating factors, and imposed the middle term of four years for robbery and four years for the firearm enhancement, for a total of eight years. Defendant appealed, asserting the court violated his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial by imposing the middle, and not low terms, because the aggravating factors relied upon were not stipulated or proven to a jury. Held: Affirmed. Under Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466, the federal jury trial guarantee proscribes a sentencing scheme that allows a judge to impose a sentence above the statutory maximum based on a fact, other than a prior conviction, not found by a jury or admitted by the defendant. However, under section 1170, subdivision (b)(6) the low term does not become the statutory maximum based on the offender’s youth. The low term becomes presumptive only after the sentencing court makes findings in addition to those supporting the jury’s verdict. Further, the language and framework of the statute make clear that the sentencing court has discretion to impose the middle term even if it finds the defendant falls within one of the categories with a presumptive lower term. As such, the Sixth Amendment does not constrain this statutory, post-verdict factfinding by the sentencing court. [Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal also held that no CPC was required to reach the issue, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in selecting the middle term.]