9 Cal.4th 1178, S033892, People v. Bruner

Docket Nº:S033892
Citation:9 Cal.4th 1178, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 534, 892 P.2d 1277
Opinion Judge:[10] Baxter
Party Name:People v. Bruner
Attorney:[7] Carol G. Arnold and Richard B. Lennon for Defendant and Appellant. [8] Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Carol Wendelin Pollack, Assistant Attorney General, Marc E. Turchin, Susan L. Frierson and Andrew D. Amerson, Deputy Attorneys Gener...
Case Date:May 04, 1995
Court:Supreme Court of California

Page 1178

9 Cal.4th 1178

40 Cal.Rptr.2d 534, 892 P.2d 1277

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,


RONNIE BRUNER, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California

May 4, 1995

Page 1179


Carol G. Arnold and Richard B. Lennon for Defendant and Appellant.

Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Carol Wendelin Pollack, Assistant Attorney General, Marc E. Turchin, Susan L. Frierson and Andrew D. Amerson, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Page 1180



Penal Code section 2900.5 provides that a convicted person shall receive credit against his sentence for all days spent in custody, including presentence custody (subd. (a)), but " only where the custody to be credited is attributable to proceedings related to the same conduct for which the defendant has been convicted" (subd. (b), italics added). The statute's application is clear when the conduct that led to the conviction and sentence was the sole cause of the custody to be credited. But difficult problems arise when, as often happens, the custody for which credit is sought had multiple, unrelated causes.

Here we confront one of these "multiple restraint" issues. Convicted of cocaine possession, defendant received a prison sentence "concurrent" to a term he was already serving for violation of his parole in another case. His custody as a parole violator was based in part on the same drug incident that led to the later conviction, but also upon additional, unrelated grounds. Defendant seeks credit against his drug sentence for time already served and credited on the parole term.

On similar facts, In re Atiles (1983) 33 Cal.3d 805 [191 Cal.Rptr. 452] (Atiles) held that duplicate credit is due whenever the conduct at issue was "a" basis for the presentence custody, even if not the only basis. The issue is whether application of Atiles' s relaxed causation standard to the circumstances of this case runs contrary to "strict causation" principles we established earlier in In re Rojas (1979) 23 Cal.3d 152 [151 Cal.Rptr. 649] (Rojas), and later in In re Joyner (1989) 48 Cal.3d 487 [256 Cal.Rptr. 785] (Joyner).

Citing Atiles, the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's denial of credit. This unpublished ruling contravenes the unanimous weight of recent published decisions which hold, under Joyner, that a defendant cannot obtain credit for confinement prior to his sentence if he cannot prove the conduct which led to the sentence was a dispositive, or "but for," cause of the presentence custody.

We conclude that when presentence custody may be concurrently attributable to two or more unrelated acts, and where the defendant has already received credit for such custody in another proceeding, the strict causation rules of Joyner should apply. Here, defendant received credit for all presentence custody in his parole revocation proceeding, and he has failed to demonstrate that but for the cocaine possession leading to his current sentence, he would have been free, or at least bailable, during that presentence period. Hence, he is not entitled to duplicative credit against the

Page 1181

current sentence. We will therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.


In March 1991, defendant was released on parole after serving a prison term for armed robbery. A warrant subsequently issued for defendant's arrest on three alleged parole violations: absconding from parole supervision, theft of a credit card, and cocaine use based on a positive urine test. On May 25, 1991, parole agents went to a residence to arrest defendant for these violations. During the search incident to defendant's arrest, a substantial quantity of rock cocaine was found on his person.

At the time of his arrest, defendant was cited for the cocaine possession, then released on his own recognizance on that charge. However, he remained in custody under a parole hold pending disposition of his parole status. On July 25, 1991, the Board of Prison Terms (Board) revoked defendant's parole on the basis of the three earlier violations, plus his possession of cocaine at the time of his arrest. A prison term of 12 months was imposed. Defendant received full credit against this term for the time spent in jail custody between May 25 and July 25. 1

While defendant was serving his parole revocation term, a criminal information was filed charging defendant with the May 25 cocaine possession. (Health & Saf. Code, § 11350, subd. (a).) The information also alleged an enhancement based on defendant's prior prison term for robbery. (Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b).) 2 On January 3, 1992, defendant entered a plea of guilty on the possession charge and admitted the enhancement.

On February 2, 1992, the court struck the enhancement and imposed the lower term of 16 months for the drug offense. The court failed to specify whether the new term would be concurrent with, or consecutive to, the revocation term. Accordingly, it became a concurrent sentence by operation

Page 1182

of law. (§ 669, 2d par.) 3 The court specifically found that defendant was not entitled to presentence credit.

Defendant appealed. He urged that under section 2900.5, he was entitled to credit against his new sentence for time spent in custody on the revocation matter between May 25, 1991, and February 2, 1992.

A majority of the Court of Appeal, Second District, Division Six, agreed in part with defendant's argument. The majority reasoned as follows: defendant's custody from May 25, 1991, until July 25, 1991, was caused entirely by the parole hold, which in turn was based solely on the three pre-arrest violations. Hence, defendant was not entitled to credit against his criminal sentence for this initial period of custody. However, the formal revocation of defendant's parole on July 25, 1991, was grounded in part on the new incident of cocaine possession. This incident thus formed "a basis" for his custody from that time forward. Under Atiles, supra, 33 Cal.3d 805, all days of custody between July 25, 1991, and February 2, 1992, were therefore "attributable" to the "same conduct" which led to his new criminal sentence and must accordingly be credited to that sentence.

In dissent, Justice Yegan reasoned as follows: Atiles was overruled sub silentio by the "strict causation" test later announced in Joyner, supra, 48 Cal.3d 487. Under the Joyner test, defendant could not qualify for presentence credit absent proof that his cocaine possession was the sole cause of his confinement before February 2, 1992. Here, the other matters leading to defendant's parole arrest were also cited as grounds for the revocation, and any one of those matters was sufficient to revoke his parole. In combination, they strongly indicated he was unsuitable for parole and thus "bound for ... prison" regardless of the cocaine incident. Under these "compelling" circumstances, defendant would receive an undeserved bounty if time served on the revocation term were also credited against the new criminal sentence.

We granted review to determine how section 2900.5 should be applied when a defendant sentenced to a new criminal term seeks credit for presentence custody attributable to a parole revocation caused in part, but

Page 1183

not exclusively, by the conduct that led to the new sentence. 4 We conclude that such credit should be denied. 5


As noted above, section 2900.5, subdivision (b) provides that presentence credits shall be given "only where the custody to be credited is attributable to proceedings related to the same conduct for which the defendant has been convicted." We first had occasion to consider this limiting language in Rojas, supra, 23 Cal.3d 152.

In Rojas, the petitioner was serving a prison term for manslaughter when he was charged with an unrelated murder committed prior to the manslaughter conviction. He was transferred from prison to county jail pending trial of the murder charge. However, he remained in the constructive custody of the prison warden and continued to earn credit against his manslaughter term. Upon his conviction for second degree murder, he received a prison sentence which was to run concurrently with the remainder of the time he was serving for manslaughter. By petition for habeas corpus, he sought credit against the new murder sentence for the period spent in county jail awaiting resolution of the murder case.

We rejected the claim. We explained that the purpose of section 2900.5 is to ensure that one held in pretrial custody on the basis of unproven criminal

Page 1184

charges will not serve a longer overall period of confinement upon a subsequent conviction than another person who received an identical sentence but did not suffer preconviction custody. However, we observed, "[t]here is no reason in law or logic to extend the protection intended to be afforded one merely charged with a crime to one already incarcerated and serving his sentence for a first offense who is then charged with a second crime. As to the latter individual the deprivation of liberty for which he seeks credit cannot be attributed to the second offense. Section 2900.5 does not authorize credit where the pending proceeding has no effect whatever upon a defendant's liberty." (23 Cal.3d at p. 156, italics in original.)

The petitioner in Rojas urged he was entitled to credit because his jail custody was attributable at least in part to the pending murder charge. He cited In re Bentley (1974) 43 Cal.App.3d 988 [118 Cal.Rptr. 452] (Bentley), where the Court of Appeal had granted credit against a robbery sentence for two periods of pretrial jail custody during which the prisoner was simultaneously serving a term of...

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