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Name: People v. Maestas
Case #: C048615
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/22/2006

Appellant was convicted of several felonies, and the trial court, after finding true allegations that appellant had suffered two prior burglary convictions that constituted serious-felony “strikes” sentenced him to 56 years to life in prison. The trial court found that appellant’s two prior burglary convictions, both of which were from 1992 and involved the same structure (a “fifth wheel trailer”), were serious-felony “strikes” under Penal Code section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(18), even though they were convictions for second-degree burglary. On appeal, appellant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s findings that appellant’s 1992 convictions for second degree burglary constituted strikes within the meaning of Penal Code section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(18), because such a finding was inconsistent with the plea agreement in the prior case, in which the prosecutor expressly agreed to reduce the two burglary counts from charges of first-degree burglary to second-degree burglary. The appellate court agreed, reversing the true findings on the strike allegations and remanding for resentencing. Distinguishing and expressing disagreement with People v. Gomez (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 22 and People v. Blackburn (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 1520, it held that, following the 2000 revision of Penal Code section 1192.7, subdivision (c)(28), in which the serious felony defined in that subdivision was changed from “residential burglary” to “first degree burglary,” it is no longer possible to find a second degree burglary conviction to be a serious felony within the meaning of subdivision (c)(18). The court explained that, while People v. Guerrero (1988) 44 Cal.3d 343, allows the trier of fact to go beyond the fact of conviction, and to use the entire record of conviction in order to determine whether a prior conviction constitutes a serious felony, the court’s holding in Guerrero was designed to allow the trial court to do what was “fair and reasonable” in cases where the serious-felony nature of the prior was not clear from the fact of conviction itself. Here, the non-serious nature of the prior convictions is clear from the convictions themselves. And it would be neither fair nor reasonable to allow the People to use the record of conviction for a second-degree burglary to prove that prior conviction was for first-degree burglary.