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Name: People v. Superior Court (Lara)
Case #: S241231
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 02/01/2018

Because Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles, the rationale of In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 requires retroactive application of the law to all cases not final when the law was enacted. In March 2016, the People directly filed a criminal complaint against Lara, a minor. Following the passage of Proposition 57, the trial court granted Lara’s petition for a fitness hearing in juvenile court and issued a short stay so the People could seek writ review. The People filed a petition for writ of mandate/prohibition asserting that Proposition 57 did not apply retroactively. While the petition was pending, proceedings commenced in the juvenile court because the stay expired, and the court denied the prosecution’s motion to transfer the case back to adult court. The Court of Appeal denied the writ petition, concluding that although Proposition 57 was not retroactive, here it was being applied prospectively. The People sought review. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 57 eliminated the People’s ability to directly file charges against a juvenile offender in criminal court, instead requiring the juvenile court to first decide whether a minor should be transferred to adult court. (See Welf. & Inst. Code § 707, subd. (a).) It is presumed that changes in the law apply prospectively only. However, the Legislature may enact laws which, either expressly or by implication, apply retroactively. To determine whether the law applies retroactively, the Legislative or voter intent must be ascertained. In Estrada, the court found that, in the absence of contrary indications, a legislative body intends for ameliorative changes in the law to extend as broadly as possible. Proposition 57 is an ameliorative change in the law and nothing in Proposition 57 or the ballot materials rebut the inference that it was intended to extend as broadly as possible. The Court of Appeal erred in finding Estrada did not apply in the Proposition 57 context, but reached the correct result. Lara properly received the benefit of Proposition 57.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: