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Name: People v. Lester
Case #: E055009
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/07/2013
Subsequent History: Review granted 1/15/2014: S214648

Defendant serving indeterminate Three Strikes sentence that was not final when the Three Strikes Reform Act (Proposition 36) was enacted is not entitled to an automatic sentence reduction under the new law. A jury convicted Lester of possessing drugs for sale with enhancements and found he had three strike priors. On October 28, 2011, he was sentenced to 25 years to life, plus six years. On appeal, he argued that his sentence should automatically be reduced based on Proposition 36 and In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740. Held: Affirmed. On November 6, 2012, Proposition 36 was enacted while Lester’s appeal was pending. It changed the law to provide for an indeterminate Three Strikes sentence where the current offense is serious or violent; otherwise the defendant is sentenced as though he had only one strike prior. It also created section 1170.126, which enables qualified inmates already serving indeterminate Three Strikes sentences to petition for resentencing under the amended sentencing laws. The court may deny relief if it finds resentencing would pose an unreasonable risk to public safety. Under Estrada, a statutory amendment mitigating punishment applies retroactively unless there is a savings clause, which bars retroactive application. Based on the analysis and arguments in the Ballot Pamphlet and the mechanism for obtaining a reduced sentence under section 1170.126, the court found section 1170.126 is the functional equivalent of a savings clause. [Editor’s Note: Justice Hollenhorst dissented, finding retroactive application of the law is consistent with its objectives (to reduce overcrowding, save money and enhance public safety), and the absence of a savings clause in the statutory implementation of the law.]

Police officers did not violate Lester’s Fourth Amendment rights when they entered his home to determine if there were any victims of a reported fight. Lester’s neighbor called 911, reporting that several females near a red car were screaming and possibly going to fight. When officers arrived, they did not see the females or the car but saw Lester and his codefendant exit the apartment next to the 911 caller’s apartment. When asked, the codefendant said there had been a problem with his “baby mama” but it resolved. Lester was detained because officers suspected he had been involved in the disturbance. Officers knocked on the door to Lester’s apartment but received no response. An officer entered to ensure there were no injured females inside. He smelled marijuana and saw it, in addition to cocaine, in plain sight. Outside, Lester told police he was on parole, at which point officers entered his apartment to seize the drugs. The circumstances created a reasonable basis for officers to believe there could be females in need of aid inside the apartment. Regardless, the contraband would have been inevitably discovered due to the search conditions of Lester’s parole.