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Name: People v. Rodriguez
Case #: C087974
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/19/2021

In determining the sufficiency of the evidence of a special circumstance involving a murder committed during the course of a violent crime spree, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances of the ongoing criminal conspiracy, not just a single event that occurred during that crime spree. Defendant and codefendant Gamboa were charged with multiple offenses, as well as two special circumstance murders, related to a two-day crime spree in which they robbed numerous victims, killing two of them. On appeal, defendant argued the evidence was insufficient to prove the special circumstance against him as to the killing of victim Luis, because as to that offense, he was merely the getaway driver. (People v. Banks (2015) 61 Cal.4th 788; People v. Clark (2016) 63 Cal.4th 522.) Held: Affirmed. “The felony-murder special circumstance applies to aiders and abettors who either act with intent to kill (§ 190.2, subd. (c)), or who are major participants and act with reckless indifference to human life (§ 190.2, subd. (d)).” However, in this case, the sufficiency of the special circumstance evidence cannot be evaluated by considering only the attempted robbery and murder of Luis, detached from the violent crime spree in which defendant participated. Instead, the court must consider the totality of the circumstances in evaluating defendant’s culpability. The evidence showed that defendant was no “ordinary aider and abettor to an ordinary felony murder,” he was a major participant in a conspiracy to commit numerous armed robberies. During that conspiracy, defendant was a major participant in carrying out the plan to rob Luis, drove away from the scene of Luis’s murder, and continued to commit violent crimes thereafter. His conduct involving similar crimes during the spree establishes reckless indifference to human life. Applying the Banks/Clark analysis to a murder committed during the course of a crime spree “adds a dimension to the analysis not present in the typical single-event scenario,” and proves the special circumstance in this case.

Even though defendant was sentenced to prison, the trial court properly imposed a county administrative fee for collecting restitution. (Pen. Code, § 1202.4, subd. (l).) The minute order memorializing defendant’s sentencing and the abstract of judgment both reflected the imposition of a $1,000 administrative fee. However, the trial court did not impose this fee in its oral pronouncement of the sentence. On appeal, defendant argued that the fee should be struck since the fee was not orally imposed. He also argued the fine was not authorized by section 1202.4, subdivision (l), which provides that “the board of supervisors of a county may impose a fee to cover the actual administrative cost of collecting the restitution fine . . . .” Because CDCR will collect the restitution fine while he is in prison (Pen. Code, § 2085.5), defendant argued the county will not incur any costs collecting his fine. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Section 2085.5 provides that CDCR shall collect specified amounts “from the wages and trust account deposits of a prisoner” to pay the prisoner’s restitution fine and allows an administrative fee to be collected. The plain language of section 1202.4, subdivision (l), requires the county administrative fee “be added to the restitution fine and included in the order of the court.” After analyzing both statutes, the court refused to read a prison sentence exception into section 1202.4, subdivision (l). The administrative fees in the statutes are not mutually exclusive and the county may still be involved in collecting a defendant’s restitution fine even if he has been sentenced to prison. A trial court’s failure to add a mandatory administrative fee results in an unauthorized sentence subject to correction on appeal. As such, the Court of Appeal modified the oral imposition of sentence to reflect the imposition of the $1,000 collection fee pursuant to section 1202.4, subdivision (l).