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Name: People v. Woodworth
Case #: F069139
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 03/29/2016
Summary

In a case where defendant was convicted of dissuading a witness from reporting a felony assault, Penal Code section 1170.15 did not require the trial court to impose a full consecutive sentence for the dissuading conviction. When the trial court sentenced Woodworth for sexual assault and witness dissuasion, it imposed a fully consecutive term for the witness dissuasion count, believing that section 1170.15 prohibited it from imposing a concurrent term. Woodworth appealed, arguing the court misunderstood its discretion. Held: Reversed and remanded. Under the determinate sentencing law, if a defendant is sentenced for more than one felony at the same time, the total term of imprisonment is the aggregate term for all the convictions, which is determined by imposition of a full sentence on the felony with the greatest term of imprisonment including enhancements (the principal term), and then adding a one-third the midterm sentence for each felony for which a consecutive sentence is imposed including one-third the term for any enhancements applicable to those felonies (the subordinate term(s)). Section 1170.15 is an exception to that rule and requires a full consecutive sentence for witness dissuasion, rather than one-third the midterm, where the defendant is convicted of dissuading a witness from reporting or testifying about the other felony he was convicted of. However, section 1170.15 does not prohibit the court from imposing a concurrent term for witness dissuasion. Based on the plain language, the statute simply requires a full midterm consecutive sentence when the trial court decides that a consecutive sentence is warranted. Because the trial court here believed section 1170.15 divested it of discretion to impose a concurrent sentence, the court misunderstood the scope of its discretion. “[A] court that is unaware of its discretionary authority cannot exercise its informed discretion.” (People v. Brown (2007) 147 Cal.App.4th 1213, 1228.) Remand is necessary for resentencing so the trial court can exercise its discretion.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F069139.PDF