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Name: People v. Piper
Case #: B280033
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 08/07/2018

Trial court erred in concluding petitioner was “armed with a firearm” during the commission of his target offenses and therefore ineligible for Proposition 36 relief where jury rejected claim that petitioner was armed with a firearm. In 2001, a jury found Piper guilty of evading a peace officer and being a felon in possession of ammunition. It found not true an allegation that he was armed in the commission of the evading offense, and it acquitted him of all firearm-related counts, included being a felon in possession of a firearm and carrying a loaded firearm. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 25 years to life under the Three Strikes law. In 2013, Piper filed a Proposition 36 resentencing petition (Pen. Code, § 1170.126). The trial court denied the petition, finding Piper ineligible because he was armed with a firearm during his crimes. (See Pen. Code §§ 1170.126, subd. (e)(2), 667, subd. (e)(2)(C)(iii), 1170.12, subd. (c)(2)(C)(iii).) He appealed. Held: Reversed. In Proposition 36 resentencing proceedings, the People have the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the petitioner is ineligible for resentencing. The trial court may not make an eligibility determination contrary to the jury’s verdict and findings. The People argued that the jury’s not-true finding on the arming enhancement did not preclude a determination that Piper was ineligible for resentencing under the “armed” exception in Proposition 36 because the enhancement requires both a facilitative nexus and temporal nexus, while the “armed” exception requires only a temporal nexus. The Court of Appeal agreed that, as a matter of law, a jury’s not-true finding on an arming enhancement does not necessarily preclude a trial court from finding that a petitioner was armed for purposes of a Proposition 36 eligibility determination. But in this case the jury’s acquittals constituted findings inconsistent with a temporal nexus between Piper and any firearm. As a result, the jury’s determinations foreclosed the trial court from finding beyond a reasonable doubt that Piper was “armed with a firearm” during his offenses.