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Name: People v. Superior Court (Ward)
Case #: E061117
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/12/2014

Defendant’s “flash incarcerations” constituted “custodial sanctions” for purposes of determining his eligibility for early release from postrelease community supervision (PRCS). Ward was convicted of being a felon/addict in possession of a firearm and sentenced to two years in state prison. As a nonviolent offender, upon release he was placed on PRCS rather than parole (Pen. Code, § 3451). Ward’s performance on PRCS was marked by several violations of his supervision terms, resulting in periods of “flash incarceration” (Pen. Code, § 3454, subd. (b) & (c)) ordered by his supervising officer. At revocation hearings in March 2014, the court concluded that the periods of flash incarceration were not “custodial sanctions” within the meaning of section 3456, subdivision (a)(3) and, since it had been more than one year since Ward was released from prison, found him free from further supervision. The prosecution sought review. Held: Peremptory writ granted. The period of PRCS cannot exceed three years. However, if a defendant has been on PRCS for a continuous year with no violations that have resulted in a “custodial sanction,” the defendant shall be discharged from supervision within 30 days. (Pen. Code, § 3456, subd. (a)(3).) Flash incarceration is not different from custody served after a court-ordered revocation (which is described as a “custodial sanction” in Pen. Code, § 3455, subd. (d)) with respect to the purpose it serves; it only differs in degree. Thus, the term “custodial sanction” in section 3456, subdivision (a)(3) includes both flash incarceration and formal revocation terms. When an offender’s conduct results in the supervising officer placing him in jail, he is presumptively unprepared for release from supervision. If flash incarceration was not counted as a custodial sanction, supervising officers would be required to use the formal court process to prevent the period of supervision from automatically expiring.

The statutory provision for flash incarceration does not deny due process. The language of the statute reflects a defendant waives his right to contest flash incarceration to obtain a conditional release. (Pen. Code, § 3453, subd. (q)). While the statute does not reflect whether this waiver is automatic or must be the subject of agreement, here Ward had signed a written waiver. Thus, there was no due process violation.