4 Cal.5th 299, S241231, People v. Superior Court (Pablo Ullisses Lara)

Docket Nº:S241231
Citation:4 Cal.5th 299, 410 P.3d 22, 228 Cal.Rptr.3d 394
Opinion Judge:CHIN, J.
Party Name:The PEOPLE, Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT of Riverside County, Respondent; Pablo Ullisses Lara, Jr., Real Party in Interest.
Attorney:Michael A. Hestrin, District Attorney, Elaina Gambera Bentley, Assistant District Attorney, Kelli M. Catlett, Ivy B. Fitzpatrick and Donald W. Ostertag, Deputy District Attorneys, for Petitioner. Summer Stephan, District Attorney (San Diego), Mark A. Amador, Linh Lam and Peter J. Cross, Deputy Di...
Judge Panel:WE CONCUR: CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C.J., CORRIGAN, J., LIU, J., CU
Case Date:February 01, 2018
Court:Supreme Court of California
SUMMARY

The defendant was charged in adult criminal court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old. The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. After the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” prohibiting prosecutors from charging juveniles... (see full summary)

 
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Page 299

4 Cal.5th 299

410 P.3d 22, 228 Cal.Rptr.3d 394

The PEOPLE, Petitioner,

v.

The SUPERIOR COURT of Riverside County, Respondent;

Pablo Ullisses Lara, Jr., Real Party in Interest.

No. S241231

Supreme Court of California

February 1, 2018

[410 P.3d 23] [228 Cal.Rptr.3d 395] Ct.App. 4/2 E067296, Riverside County Super. Ct. No. RIF1601012

COUNSEL

Michael A. Hestrin, District Attorney, Elaina Gambera Bentley, Assistant District Attorney, Kelli M. Catlett, Ivy B. Fitzpatrick and Donald W. Ostertag, Deputy District Attorneys, for Petitioner.

Summer Stephan, District Attorney (San Diego), Mark A. Amador, Linh Lam and Peter J. Cross, Deputy District Attorneys, for San Diego County District Attorney as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Petitioner.

No appearance for Respondent.

Steven S. Mitchell; Steven L. Harmon, Public Defender, and Laura Arnold, Deputy Public Defender, for Real Party in Interest.

Rourke Frances Stacy, Public Defender (Los Angeles); Richard L. Braucher, Susan Lynn Burrell and David John Briggs for Los Angeles County Public Defender and Pacific Juvenile Defender Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Real Party in Interest.

OPINION

CHIN, J.

[228 Cal.Rptr.3d 396] Real party in interest, Pablo Ullisses Lara, Jr. (hereafter, defendant), was charged in criminal (or adult) court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old.1 The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. In November 2016, after the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the " Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016" (Proposition [410 P.3d 24] 57). Proposition 57 prohibits prosecutors from charging juveniles with crimes directly in adult court. Instead, they must commence the action in juvenile court. If the prosecution wishes to try the juvenile as an adult, the juvenile court must conduct what we will call a " transfer hearing" to determine whether the matter should remain in juvenile court or be transferred to adult court. Only if the juvenile court transfers the matter to adult court can the juvenile be tried and sentenced as an adult. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (a).)2

We must decide whether this part of Proposition 57 applies retroactively to benefit defendant. In In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948 (Estrada ), we held that a statute that reduced the punishment for a crime applied retroactively to any case in which the judgment was not final before the statute took effect. In People v. Francis (1969) 71 Cal.2d 66, 75 Cal.Rptr. 199, 450 P.2d 591 (Francis ), we applied Estrada to a statute that merely made a reduced punishment possible. Estrada is not directly on point; Proposition 57 does not reduce the punishment for a crime. But its rationale does apply. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court— where rehabilitation is the goal— rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment. Therefore, Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. For this reason, Estrada ’s inference of retroactivity applies. As nothing in Proposition 57’s text or ballot materials rebuts this inference, we conclude this part of Proposition 57 applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted.

Because the Court of Appeal reached a similar result, although for different reasons, we affirm the judgment.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 10, 2016, the Riverside County District Attorney filed an information in adult court charging defendant with kidnapping for rape, oral copulation, and sodomy; forcible oral copulation with a child [228 Cal.Rptr.3d 397] under 14 years of age; and two counts of forcible sodomy. Defendant has not yet been tried, but the charges are based on sex crimes defendant allegedly committed against a girl who was seven and eight years old when the crimes occurred.

On November 8, 2016, the electorate passed Proposition 57, and it took effect the next day. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 10, subd. (a).) On November 16, 2016, defendant requested the matter be transferred to juvenile court for a " fitness hearing" pursuant to Proposition 57. After a hearing, on November 29, 2016, the trial court granted the motion, holding that Proposition 57 applies retroactively to this case. It issued a short stay to permit the People to seek writ review in the Court of Appeal.

Three days later, the People filed the instant writ petition in the Court of Appeal challenging the trial court’s order and seeking an additional stay. On March 13, 2017, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion denying the petition. (People v. Superior Court (Lara) (2017) 9 Cal.App.5th 753, 215 Cal.Rptr.3d 456 (Lara ).) It concluded that Proposition 57 does not apply retroactively under the rationale of Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d 740, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948. But it also concluded that, applied prospectively, Proposition 57 entitles defendant to a fitness hearing.

In the meantime, because the trial court stay expired and the Court of Appeal did not issue its own stay, matters continued at the trial court level. The trial court suspended proceedings in the adult court and ordered defendant released from custody unless the People commenced a juvenile court proceeding within 48 hours. The next day, the People filed a petition in juvenile court alleging defendant committed the crimes already charged in adult court and requesting a hearing to transfer the matter back to adult court. The juvenile court held the hearing but denied the People’s request to transfer the matter back to adult court. A contested jurisdictional hearing was scheduled in juvenile court for April 20, 2017.

[410 P.3d 25] The People filed a petition for review and requested a stay. On April 19, 2017, we stayed all further proceedings in the juvenile and adult courts pending further order of this court. Later, we granted the petition for review to decide whether Proposition 57’s juvenile law provisions apply retroactively to cases filed in adult court before it took effect.3

  1. DISCUSSION

A. Background

" Historically, a child could be tried in criminal court only after a judicial determination, before jeopardy attached, that he or she was unfit to be dealt with under juvenile court law. Since 1975 the procedural requirements for fitness hearings have been established by section 707." (Juan G. v Superior Court (2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 1480, 1488, 147 Cal.Rptr.3d 816.) The general rule used to be that " any individual less than 18 years of age who violates the criminal law comes within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which may adjudge such an individual a ward of the court." (Manduley v. Superior Court (2002) 27 Cal.4th 537, 548, 117 Cal.Rptr.2d 168, 41 P.3d 3, fn. omitted.)

Amendments to former sections 602 and 707 in 1999 and 2000, some by initiative, changed this historical rule. Under the [228 Cal.Rptr.3d 398] changes, in specified circumstances, prosecutors were permitted, and sometimes required, to file charges against a juvenile directly in criminal court, where the juvenile would be treated as an adult. (Manduley v. Superior Court, supra, 27 Cal.4th at pp. 548-551, 117 Cal.Rptr.2d 168, 41 P.3d 3, 27 Cal.4th 887A at pp. 548-551; Juan G. v. Superior Court, supra, 209 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1488-1490, 147 Cal.Rptr.3d 816.) These provisions were in effect when the prosecution filed the charges against defendant directly in criminal court.

Proposition 57 changed the procedure again, and largely returned California to the historical rule. " Among other provisions, Proposition 57 amended the Welfare and Institutions Code so as to eliminate direct filing by prosecutors. Certain categories of minors ... can still be tried in criminal court, but only after a juvenile court judge conducts a transfer hearing to consider various factors such as the minor’s maturity, degree of criminal sophistication, prior delinquent history, and whether the minor can be rehabilitated. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (a)(1).)" (People v. Vela (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 68, 72, 218 Cal.Rptr.3d 1, review granted July 12, 2017, S242298 (Vela ).)4

We must decide whether this requirement of a transfer hearing before a juvenile can be tried as an adult applies to defendant even though he had already been charged in adult court before Proposition 57 took effect. The question has potentially major consequences for juveniles like defendant. While a person convicted of serious crimes in adult court can be punished by a long prison sentence, juveniles are generally treated quite differently, with rehabilitation as the...

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