In this case in which briefing was previously deferred pending decision in People v. Page (2017) 3 Cal.5th 1175, the court ordered the parties to brief the following question on 2/21/2018: Does equal protection or the avoidance of absurd consequences require that misdemeanor sentencing under Penal Code sections 490.2 and 1170.18 extend not only to those convicted of violating Vehicle Code section 10851 by theft, but also to those convicted for taking a vehicle without the intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession? (See People v. Page (2017) 3 Cal.5th 1175, 1188, fn. 5.)
Held: A person who has unlawfully taken a vehicle worth $950 or less with the intent to temporarily deprive the owner of possession in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851 is eligible for Proposition 47 relief. Bullard pleaded guilty to a felony violation of section 10851 based on evidence he took his girlfriend’s car without her permission and later returned the car. After Proposition 47 passed, Bullard petitioned to have his conviction redesignated as a misdemeanor. The trial court denied the petition, finding that Proposition 47 did not affect section 10851. The Court of Appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court granted review but deferred briefing pending People v. Page (2017) 3 Cal.5th 1175, 1187, which held that Proposition 47 applied to section 10851 convictions based on taking a vehicle with intent to permanently deprive the owner of possession. After Page was decided, the court ordered briefing in this case to consider whether Proposition 47 applies to section 10851 convictions based on taking a vehicle, in the absence of proof that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the owner of possession. Held: Reversed. After analyzing section 10851 and Proposition 47, the court concluded that Proposition 47 should not be interpreted to split the section 10851 taking offense into two offenses–misdemeanor taking with intent to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle, and felony taking with intent to do so only temporarily. Such an interpretation would be patently illogical and there is no plausible reason why voters might have intended that result. The elements of taking an automobile without the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its possession are included in taking with such intent. Except where a conviction is based on posttheft driving (i.e., driving separated from the vehicle’s taking by a substantial break), a violation of section 10851 must be punished as a misdemeanor if the vehicle is worth $950 or less, regardless of whether the defendant had the intent to permanently or temporarily deprive the owner of possession. [Editor’s Note: The court remanded the case to the Court of Appeal to resolve the issue of the value of the car in this case.] This case was decided on 3/23/2020.