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Name: People v. Sanchez
Case #: E072647
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 05/07/2020
Summary

Penal Code section 1170.95 relief is not available to those offenders who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and the statute does not violate equal protection principles. In 2010, Sanchez was charged with first degree murder but he ultimately pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. In 2019, he petitioned for resentencing under section 1170.95. The trial court denied the petition, concluding section 1170.95 provides relief for murder convictions only. Sanchez appealed. Held: Affirmed. Sanchez argued that section 1170.95, subdivision (a)(2) contained an ambiguity that must be interpreted in his favor to avoid surplusage. Moreover, he argued legislative intent supported interpreting section 1170.95 as applying to those convicted of voluntary manslaughter. This court agreed with other Court of Appeal decisions holding section 1170.95, by its plain language, does not apply to those convicted of manslaughter. (People v. Flores (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 985, 997; People v. Turner (2020) 45 Cal.App.5th 428, 438; People v. Cervantes (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 884, 887.) This does not violate equal protection. The court disagreed with Sanchez’s argument that the distinction between those who pleaded guilty to murder and those who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter is not reasonable in light of the Legislature’s intent to save money on the costs of incarceration. This is the type of fiscal line-drawing and policy decision that the Legislature is free to make. It does not demonstrate that it was irrational to distinguish between those convicted of murder by plea and those convicted of voluntary manslaughter by plea.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E072647.PDF