People v. Cooper, S092882.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Citation27 Cal.4th 38,115 Cal.Rptr.2d 219,37 P.3d 403
Docket NumberNo. S092882.,S092882.
PartiesThe PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Bruce Edward COOPER, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date14 January 2002

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 219
27 Cal.4th 38
37 P.3d 403

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Bruce Edward COOPER, Defendant and Appellant

No. S092882.

Supreme Court of California.

January 14, 2002.

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 221
Louis Marinus Wijsen, Alameda, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, David P. Druliner and Robert R. Anderson, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Ronald A. Bass, Assistant Attorney General, Michael E. Banister, Christina V. Kuo and Catherine A. Rivlin, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 220

Defendants sentenced to prison for criminal conduct are entitled to credit against their terms for all actual days of presentence and postsentence custody (Pen.Code,1 §§ 2900, subd. (c), 2900.5, subds. (a), (b)) and while in prison custody, can earn postsentence good behavior/worktime credits (§ 2931) or prison worktime credits (§ 2933) to shorten the period of incarceration. Defendants detained in a county jail, or other equivalent specified facility, "prior to the imposition of sentence," may also be eligible for presentence good behavior/worktime credits (collectively referred to as conduct credits) of up to two days for every four days of actual custody. (§ 4019, subds.(a)(4), (b), (c), (e), (f).) Section 2933.1, subdivision (c), adopted in 1994, limits the authorized award of presentence conduct credits to a maximum of 15 percent of a defendant's actual period of presentence confinement for specified felons, including murderers. In this case, a jury convicted defendant for a murder that was committed on May 22, 1998. We granted review to determine whether the 15 percent limitation on presentence conduct credits applies to convicted murderers, such as defendant, who were sentenced under the 1978 version of

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 222
section 190, which designates the punishment for murder.2 As explained below, we conclude that section 2933.1 applies to limit defendant's award of presentence conduct credits


The information charged that defendant murdered his wife on May 22, 1998. (§ 187.) It further alleged that he personally used a dangerous weapon, a knife, during the commission of the crime. (§ 12022, subd. (b)(1).) The jury found defendant guilty of second degree murder and found the personal-use allegation to be true. The trial court imposed a sentence of 15 years to life on the murder conviction (§ 190), and a one-year consecutive determinate term on the personal-use finding. The court awarded defendant 336 days for actual time served (§ 2900.5, subd. (a)) and 50 days of presentence conduct credits (§ 4019, subds.(b), (c)). In calculating the presentence conduct credits, the court limited those credits to 15 percent of the actual time served under section 2933.1, subdivision (c).3

Defendant appealed and claimed, among other things, that the trial court miscalculated his presentence conduct credits under section 2933.1. Agreeing with defendant that the trial court erred in limiting those credits, the Court of Appeal awarded defendant full presentence conduct credits, as authorized under section 4019. The court modified the judgment by increasing the presentence conduct credits from 50 days to 168 days, but otherwise affirmed the conviction.

Defendant sought review here on an instructional issue not before us. The Attorney General filed a letter, which we deemed to be an answer, contesting the modification of sentence. We granted review solely on the credits issue.


As in the Court of Appeal, defendant asserts that his murder sentence was based on the 1978 version of section 190, which had been adopted by the electorate by the passage of the Briggs Initiative. He argues that, because section 2933.1 was enacted by the Legislature in 1994 without voter approval, the limitation of presentence conduct credits against that sentence was an invalid modification of the Briggs Initiative. For the reasons stated below, we disagree.

On November 7, 1978, the voters amended section 190 by the passage of the Briggs Initiative. The amendment increased the punishment for first degree murder from an indeterminate term of life imprisonment to a term of 25 years to life,

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 223
and for second degree murder from a term of five, six, or seven years to 15 years to life in state prison. (Prop. 7, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 7, 1978); see Note, Deering's Ann. Pen.Code (1985 ed.) foil. § 190, p. 82; People v. Bright (1996) 12 Cal.4th 652, 662-663, fn. 7, 49 Cal. Rptr.2d 732, 909 P.2d 1354.) The purpose of the Briggs Initiative was to substantially increase the punishment for persons convicted of first and second degree murder. (In re Jeanice D. (1980) 28 Cal.3d 210, 219, 168 Cal.Rptr. 455, 617 P.2d 1087.) Former section 190, as amended by the Briggs Initiative, provided for credits as follows: "The provisions of Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 2930) of Chapter 7 of Title 1 of Part 3 of the Penal Code shall apply to reduce any minimum term of 25 or 15 years in state prison imposed pursuant to this section, but such person shall not otherwise be released on parole prior to such time." (Prop. 7, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 7, 1978), reprinted at Deering's Ann. Pen.Code, supra, § 190, p. 82 (former § 190.3).)

At the time the Briggs Initiative was approved, article 2.5 contained only provisions relating to prison conduct credits: sections 2930 (notice to prisoners about availability of credits), 2931 (good behavior and participation credits), and 2932 (forfeiture of such credits). (Stats. 1976, ch. 1139, § 276, pp. 5146-5149; In re Oluwa (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 439, 442, 255 Cal.Rptr. 35.) The Legislature had enacted article 2.5 as part of the Determinate Sentencing Act of 1976, to provide incentives for prison inmates to refrain from criminal conduct and to encourage participation in rehabilitative activities by allowing inmates to reduce their sentences for good behavior and participation in prison activities. (People v. Austin (1981) 30 Cal.3d 155, 163, 178 Cal.Rptr. 312, 636 P.2d 1.)

In 1988 and 1994, the voters again approved legislative amendments to section 190 by the passage of Propositions 67 and 179, respectively. The amendments increased the penalties for certain designated murders not applicable here, consistent with the purpose of the Briggs Initiative to increase the punishment for persons convicted of murder. (Stats.1987, ch. 1006, § 1, pp. 3367-3368, approved by voters as Prop. 67, eff. June 8, 1988; Ballot Pamp., Primary Elec. (June 7, 1988) analysis and text of Prop. 67, pp. 8-9; and see Legis. Counsel's Dig., Sen. Bill No. 402, 4 Stats. 1987 (1987-1988 Reg.Sess.), Summary Dig., p. 335; Stats. 1993, ch. 609, § 3, p. 3266, approved by voters as Prop. 179, eff. June 8, 1994; Ballot Pamp., Primary Elec. (June 7, 1994) analysis, text, and argument in favor of Prop. 179, pp. 22-23, 29; and see Legis. Counsel's Dig., Sen. Bill. No. 310, 5 Stats.1993 (1993-1994 Reg.Sess.), Summary Dig., pp. 236-237; see Notes, Deering's Ann. Pen.Code (2001 supp.) foil. § 190, pp. 38-39.)

At the time of the murder in this case (May 1998), the credits provision in subdivision (a) of former section 190, as amended effective 1994, read: "Except as provided in subdivision (b), Article 2.5 (commencing with Section 2930) of Chapter 7 of Title 1 of Part 3 shall apply to reduce any minimum term of 15, 20, or 25 years in the state prison imposed pursuant to this section, but the person shall not otherwise be released on parole prior to that time." (Stats.1993, ch. 609, § 3, p. 3266.)

In 1994, the Legislature added section 2933.1 to article 2.5 as an urgency measure. (Stats.1994, ch. 713, § 1, p. 3448.) For specified felons, section 2933.1 limits presentence conduct credits authorized under section 4019. (People v. Buckhalter (2001) 26 Cal.4th 20, 31-32, 108 Cal. Rptr.2d 625, 25 P.3d 1103; People v. Aguirre, supra, 56 Cal.App.4th at pp.

115 Cal.Rptr.2d 224
1138-1141, 66 Cal.Rptr.2d 77.) Section 2933.1 became effective on September 21, 1994 (People v. Camba (1996) 50 Cal. App.4th 857, 867, 57 Cal.Rptr.2d 907), after the passage of Proposition 179, and states, in relevant part: "(a) Notwithstanding any other law, any person who is convicted of a felony offense listed in Section 667.5 shall accrue no more than 15 percent of work-time credit, as defined in Section 2933.[¶] ... [¶] (c) Notwithstanding Section 4019 or any other provision of law, the maximum credit that may be earned against a period of confinement in, or commitment to, a county jail, ... following arrest and prior to placement in the custody of the Director of Corrections, shall not exceed 15 percent of the actual period of confinement for any person specified in subdivision (a)."

Murder is one of the qualifying felony offenses specified in section 667.5, subdivision (c)(1).

Relying on In re Oluwa, supra, 207 Cal.App.3d at page 445, 255 Cal.Rptr. 35, defendant argues that, at the time of his offense, former section 190 incorporated by specific reference the code sections contained in article 2.5 at the time of the Briggs Initiative. Because former section 190 expressly authorized article 2.5 credits to reduce the minimum term imposed and section 2933.1 later limited the availability of credits without voter approval, defendant claims that section 2933.1 is inapplicable to his sentence. He argues that, instead, he is entitled to presentence conduct credits under the more favorable section 4019 formula.4 On the other hand, the Attorney General argues that former section 190's reference to article 2.5 in the 1978 Briggs Initiative was "merely a general reference to an entire system of laws regarding credits" and that any subsequent credits modifications by the Legislature were to be included in section 190's general reference to the credits scheme. We agree with defendant's characterization that the...

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