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Name: People v. Superior Court (Guevara) (2023) 97 Cal.App.5th 978
Case #: B329457
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 12/08/2023

Penal Code section 1172.75 (Senate Bill No. 483) does not require the trial court to modify a third strike sentence where the defendant’s petition for resentencing under section 1170.126 (Proposition 36) was already denied on public safety grounds. In 2009, defendant was sentenced to 25 years to life under the Three Strikes law based on his conviction for spousal battery (which is not a serious or violent felony) plus three years for his prior prison term enhancements. In 2013, Guevara petitioned for resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Prop. 36) and the trial court denied relief, finding that resentencing would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. (§ 1170.126, subd. (f).). In 2023, defendant was resentenced under SB 483, after CDCR referral. At resentencing, defendant argued that the sentence for his current felony should only be doubled as it was not serious or violent. (§§ 667, subd. (e)(2)(C), 1170.12, subd. (c)(2)(C).) The trial court agreed, and resentenced defendant to double the upper term on the spousal battery count. The People sought a stay and a writ of mandate. Held: Writ issued. The Reform Act provided a petitioning process for those serving a life term under the Three Strikes law for nonserious, nonviolent felonies and allows for resentencing, but only for those found not to be a danger to the public. (§ 1170.126, subds. (b), (f).) Under section 1172.75, defendant’s three prior prison term enhancements were vacated, but not his 25-years-to-life term mandated by the Reform Act, which remains intact because defendant was found to be a danger to the public when he originally petitioned under Prop. 36 in 2013.  Defendant’s position that section 1172.75, subdivision (d) entitles him to resentencing of his three strikes life term would result in a wholesale repeal of section 1170.126. The Reform Act allows the Legislature to amend it by statute only if the statute passes each house of the Legislature by a vote of two-thirds of the membership. SB 483 did not pass the senate with a two-thirds vote. Because section 1172.75 was passed by less than two-thirds of the members of both houses of the Legislature, it may not vacate defendant’s sentence. [Editor’s Note: Justice Baltodano dissented. In his view, defendant was entitled to a full resentencing, including modification of the portion of the sentence affected by the prior strikes, because the entire sentence was vacated upon a finding of eligibility for resentencing under section 1172.75.]