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Name: People v. Valencia
Case #: F067946
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 12/16/2014
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/18/2015: S223825

Definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” contained in Proposition 47 (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (c)) does not apply to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act (Prop. 36). Valencia, who was serving a 25-years-to-life sentence under the Three Strikes law, petitioned for resentencing after passage of the Reform Act. Although the trial court found that his current conviction was not a serious or violent felony, the court denied his petition after concluding that Valencia posed an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. While Valencia’s appeal was pending, the voters enacted Proposition 47. Among other things, Proposition 47 added Penal Code section 1170.18, subdivision (c), which provides: “As used throughout this Code, ‘unreasonable risk of danger to public safety’ means an unreasonable risk that the petitioner will commit a new violent felony within the meaning of [Penal Code section 667, subdivision (e)(2)(C)(iv)].” Valencia argued that the new definition of unreasonable risk of danger to public safety contained in Proposition 47 should apply to him and that under that narrower definition his petition should be granted. Held: Affirmed. Although the “As used throughout this Code” language unambiguously refers to the entire Penal Code, the Court of Appeal concluded, after applying rules of statutory construction, that voters did not intend the new definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” in section 1170.18 to apply to that phrase as it appears in the Reform Act (Pen. Code, § 1170.126, subd. (f).) The ballot materials for Proposition 47 did not alert voters that the new definition in section 1170.18, subdivision (c) would apply to resentencing proceedings under the Reform Act, or otherwise indicate that Proposition 47 had any impact on the Reform Act. “Voters cannot intend something of which they are unaware.” [Editor’s Note: Justice Peña dissented, concluding that the new definition should apply prospectively, but not retroactively, to resentencing proceedings under the Reform Act.]