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Name: People v. Solis
Case #: G048019
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 03/11/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 6/11/2014: S218757

The proper remedy for juvenile offender’s unconstitutional de facto LWOP sentence is to modify the sentence to include a minimum parole eligibility date of 25 years. Appellant was convicted of committing a murder when he was 17. The jury found that appellant murdered the victim with a firearm (Pen. Code, § 12022.53, subds. (c), (d)) and found true a gang special circumstance allegation. The sentencing court found that appellant’s crimes did not reflect irreparable corruption such that an available LWOP sentence would be appropriate. Nevertheless, it sentenced him to 50 years to life in state prison, the mandatory minimum term based on the gun enhancement. On appeal, appellant argued that his sentence was cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. Held: Sentence modified. Observing that appellant would not be eligible for parole until he is 68 years old, the appellate court found the sentence to be a de facto LWOP sentence and unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. (See Miller v. Alabama (2012) __ U.S. __ [132 S.Ct. 2455]; People v. Caballero (2012) 55 Cal.4th 262.) The court rejected the Attorney General’s argument that recently enacted SB 260, which guarantees appellant a “youth offender parole hearing” in 25 years (Pen. Code, § 3051, subd. (a)(1)), cured any constitutional deficiencies in the sentence. If the court followed this approach, appellant would still have a facially unconstitutional sentence. Because there is no guarantee that SB 260 will be around when appellant becomes eligible for parole, sentencing courts must impose a time when the juvenile offender will be able to seek parole. SB 260 is a “safety net” as opposed to a cure-all for unconstitutional juvenile sentences. Because the trial court determined that appellant was reformable, the appellate court modified his sentence to include a minimum parole eligibility date of 25 years. [Editor’s Note: This issue is currently pending in the California Supreme Court. (In re Alatriste (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1232, review granted 2/19/2014.)]