A Franklin hearing does not reopen a final judgment or sentencing; it is an “evidence preservation process” to gather data for future determination of parole. In 2006, White was convicted of second degree murder and other offenses based on an accident he caused driving while intoxicated. He requested and received a Franklin hearing (People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261) to place on the record mitigating factors in anticipation of a youthful parole hearing. (See Pen. Code, § 3051.) On appeal, he argued the Franklin hearing reopened his case, which would allow application of Assembly Bill No. 518. Held: Affirmed. At the time of White’s sentencing, Penal Code section 654, former subdivision (a) required a trial court to impose the longest possible term when that section applied to two convictions. AB 518, effective January 1, 2022, amended section 654, to allow the trial court to impose sentence on either conviction. Though this amendment applies retroactively to nonfinal cases, it does not apply to White, because his Franklin hearing was not an extended portion of the original sentencing. Though Franklin hearings follow the procedures in Penal Code section 1204, and California Rules of Court, rule 4.437, which are related to sentencing, they are not the basis for Franklin hearings. Penal Code section 1203.01, under which post judgment Franklin motions are filed, is separate statutory authority for such hearings and not part of the defendant’s sentence. (See In re Cook (2019) 7 Cal.5th 439.) A Franklin hearing does not reopen or affect the judgment.
AB 518 does not apply retroactively to final convictions. White argued that AB 518 should be applied retroactively to all convictions, whether or not final. Criminal laws generally apply prospectively. An exception to this rule was recognized in In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, which held that, absent a clear intent to the contrary, new laws that mitigate punishment are presumed to apply to all cases not yet final. Nothing in AB 518 reflects the Legislature intended to alter the Estrada presumption, as it is “silent on the question of retroactivity and provides no mechanism by which youth offenders whose convictions are final can petition for resentencing.”
Failure to apply AB 518 to final cases does not deny defendants equal protection of the law. “Because Assembly Bill 518’s differing treatment of defendants whose judgments are not final does not involve a fundamental right, and defendant does not contend the measure discriminates against members of a suspect class, it need only survive rational basis review to be constitutional.” Under that standard, equal protection is denied only where there is no rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate governmental purpose. That purpose exists where the Legislature or the voters decline to make new laws that reduce criminal sentences fully retroactive in order to assure that penal laws continue to have their intended deterrent effect.