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Name: People v. Yearwood
Case #: F063712
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/29/2013
Summary

Resentencing based on revisions to strikes law is not available on appeal to otherwise qualified defendants whose case is not yet final and who received a life term prior to the effective date of Proposition 36. In September 2011, appellant, who had two prior strikes, was convicted of possession marijuana in prison (Pen. Code, § 4573.6), which is not a serious felony. On October 24, 2011, the court sentenced appellant to 25 years to life. On appeal he asked for reversal of his sentence based on the November 6, 2012 revisions to the strikes law (Prop. 36). Held: Affirmed. The Three Strikes Reform Act amended Penal Code sections 667 and 1170.12 to provide a three strike sentence only where the triggering felony is serious or violent, with several exceptions. It also added Penal Code section 1170.126, which allows for filing of a recall petition for resentencing for qualified defendants serving a life sentence, within two years of the Act’s effective date. Unlike sections 667 and 1170.12, section 1170.126 allows discretionary denial of resentencing where the trial court finds the defendant poses an unreasonable risk to public safety. The revised law does not apply retroactively, however, because section 1170.126 operates as the functional equivalent of a savings clause. Further, section 1170.126 is not ambiguous – it applies to defendants, like appellant, who were sentenced prior to the Act’s effective date, but whose cases were not yet final at that time. Prospective application of the Act does not violate equal protection because it furthers legitimate interests. The discretionary public safety exception present in section 1170.126, but not in amended section 667 or 1170.12, is rationally related to a legitimate state interest in not releasing defendants who pose a danger. Appellant is not without remedy – when his case is final he may seek recall of his sentence under section 1170.126.