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Prior Serious Felony Enhancement and Second Strike Sentences

Can a five-year enhancement for a prior serious felony conviction (Pen. Code, 667, subd. (a)) be added to multiple determinate terms imposed as part of a second-strike sentence (Pen. Code, 667, subd. (e)(1))?

Held: Prior serious felony enhancement may be added only once to multiple determinate terms imposed as part of a second-strike sentence. Sasser was convicted of multiple offenses arising from sexual assaults on several victims. He admitted a prior strike and prior serious felony enhancement (Pen. Code, 667, subd. (a)(1)). On his first appeal, several convictions were reversed and the case was remanded for resentencing. As to a portion of the sentence on remand, the trial court applied a five-year prior serious felony enhancement on each of seven determinate terms. The Court of Appeal affirmed. Sasser's petition for review was granted. Held: Duplicate prior serious felony enhancements reversed. In considering the interplay between Penal Code section 1170.1, section 667.6, subdivision (c) (alternate sentencing scheme for certain sex offenses), and sentencing enhancements based on a defendant's prior convictions, the court in People v. Tassell (1984) 36 Cal.3d 77, distinguished between enhancements which go to the nature of the offender (status based) and those which go to the nature of the offense (conduct based). In prescribing the manner in which consecutive terms are calculated for determinate sentences, section 1170.1, subdivision (a) makes clear that status-based enhancements are added to the overall sentence only once. The fact that a determinate sentence may be made pursuant to the Strikes Law does not alter section 1170.1's application regarding the imposition of enhancements because the Three Strikes law incorporates section 1170.1's principal term/subordinate term scheme. Nor does it matter that Sasser was also sentenced under section 667.6, subdivision (c), as that section supplants the manner of calculating consecutive sentences specified in section 1170.1, subdivision (a) but not the manner of applying enhancements. (People v. Sasser (2015) 61 Cal.4th 1 (S217128).) This case was decided on 4/23/2015.

Updated: 4/23/2015

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