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Name: People v. McCann
Case #: B184262
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 07/13/2006

Penal Code section 851.8 allows a person to petition for a finding of factual innocence in three circumstances, one of which is where there is an acquittal of the charges. While the language of the statute does not on its face apply to defendants whose convictions have been reversed on appeal, it would violate equal protection principles to disallow such defendants to seek relief under the statute. The trial court denied defendant’s motion for a finding of factual innocence under section 851.8, after his conviction was reversed on appeal due to insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeal found defendant could seek relief under the statute. The court noted a defendant who gets a reversal for insufficient evidence on appeal is more likely to be factually innocent than a person acquitted at trial because a jury can acquit for reasons having nothing to do with sufficiency of the evidence. Plus, an appellate court ruling of insufficient evidence is the functional equivalent of an acquittal for double jeopardy purposes. Further, the trial court erred by ruling defendant failed to show factual innocence. Here, there was not only a finding of insufficient evidence by the appellate court, but also a finding that “the Attorney General’s theory lacks any apparent support from legal authority, practical usage, or the literal wording of the statute.” Therefore, defendant was entitled to a finding of factual innocence under section 851.8.