People v. Esquivel, S262551

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtOpinion of the Court by Cantil-Sakauye, C.J.
Citation487 P.3d 974,11 Cal.5th 671,279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Randolph Steven ESQUIVEL, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date17 June 2021
Docket NumberS262551

11 Cal.5th 671
487 P.3d 974
279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.

Randolph Steven ESQUIVEL, Defendant and Appellant.

S262551

Supreme Court of California.

June 17, 2021


Mark R. Feeser, San Luis Obispo, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Paul R. Kraus, Oakland, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra and Rob Bonta, Attorneys General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Susan Sullivan Pithey, Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Johnsen, David W. Williams, Steven D. Matthews and Rama R. Maline, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion of the Court by Cantil-Sakauye, C.J.

487 P.3d 976

When new legislation reduces the punishment for an offense, we presume that the legislation applies to all cases not yet final as of the legislation's effective date. ( In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948 ( Estrada ).) A case in which a defendant is placed on probation with imposition of sentence suspended is not yet final for this purpose if the defendant may still timely obtain direct review of an order revoking probation and imposing sentence. ( People v. McKenzie (2020) 9 Cal.5th 40, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 224, 459 P.3d 25 ( McKenzie ).) We hold that a case in which a defendant is placed on probation with execution of an imposed state prison sentence suspended is not yet final for this purpose if the defendant may still timely obtain direct review of an order revoking probation and causing the state prison sentence to take effect.

I. BACKGROUND

Defendant Randolph Steven Esquivel pleaded no contest to a felony and admitted two prior prison terms. In 2015, the trial court sentenced him to three years’ imprisonment for the felony and one additional year for each of the two priors. The court then suspended execution of the state prison sentence and placed defendant on probation. Defendant did not challenge his sentence on appeal at that time. About three years later, in 2018, the court found defendant in violation of a condition of probation and ordered the sentence into effect.

Defendant appealed. During the pendency of his appeal, the Legislature amended the provision under which the trial court had imposed the two 1-year enhancements. Specifically, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill No. 136 (2019–2020 Reg. Sess.) (hereafter Senate Bill 136), which made the enhancement provision applicable only to prison terms imposed for certain sexually violent offenses. (See Stats. 2019, ch. 590, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 2020, amending Pen. Code, § 667.5, subd. (b).) If the amended provision had been in effect at the time of defendant's sentencing, it would not have applied to his prior prison terms. The parties agreed that the amendment applies to all cases that were not final when the legislation took effect. The parties disagreed, however, about whether defendant's case was already final.

The Court of Appeal held that it was. The court reasoned that defendant could have appealed his sentence when that sentence

279 Cal.Rptr.3d 662

was imposed, in 2015. The sentence became final, the court continued, when defendant failed to timely appeal from the order imposing sentence. ( People v. Esquivel (Mar. 26, 2020, B294024) 2020 WL 1465895 [nonpub. opn.].) We granted review. 1

II. THE ESTRADA PRESUMPTION

George Ramirez Estrada was convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense and committed to a rehabilitation center. ( Estrada , supra , 63 Cal.2d at p. 742, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) He escaped. ( Ibid. ) At that time, a person convicted of such an escape could not be paroled without first serving two years in prison. ( Id. at pp. 742–744, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) Before Estrada was convicted and sentenced, however, new legislation that afforded earlier parole eligibility took effect. ( Id. at p. 744, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) This court held that Estrada was entitled to the benefit of the new legislation. ( Ibid. ) "If the amendatory statute lessening punishment becomes effective prior to the date the judgment of conviction becomes final," we concluded, then "it, and not the old statute in effect when the prohibited act was committed, applies." ( Ibid. )

The issue, we reasoned, was one of legislative intent. ( Estrada , supra , 63 Cal.2d at p. 744, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) "Had the Legislature expressly stated which statute should apply, its determination, either way, would have been legal and constitutional."

487 P.3d 977

( Ibid. ) In the absence of such a declaration of intent, we identified "one consideration of paramount importance" ( ibid. ): "When the Legislature amends a statute so as to lessen the punishment[,] it has obviously expressly determined that its former penalty was too severe and that a lighter punishment is proper as punishment for the commission of the prohibited act. It is an inevitable inference that the Legislature must have intended that the new statute imposing the new lighter penalty now deemed to be sufficient should apply to every case to which it constitutionally could apply. The amendatory act imposing the lighter punishment can be applied constitutionally to acts committed before its passage provided the judgment convicting the defendant of the act is not final. This intent seems obvious, because to hold otherwise would be to conclude that the Legislature was motivated by a desire for vengeance, a conclusion not permitted in view of modern theories of penology." ( Id. at p. 745, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) Under those theories, punishment is appropriate to deter, confine, and rehabilitate; " ‘[t]here is no place in the scheme for punishment for its own sake.’ " ( Ibid. ) 2

Estrada ’s presumption of retroactivity has been a fixture of our criminal law for more than 50 years. During this time, "the development of modern theories of penology has continued to unfold." ( In re Pedro T. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1041, 1045, fn. 1, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 74, 884 P.2d 1022.) About 10 years after we decided Estrada , our Legislature "declare[d] that the purpose of imprisonment for crime is punishment." (Stats. 1976, ch. 1139, § 273, p. 5140, adding Pen. Code, § 1170.) The Legislature

279 Cal.Rptr.3d 663

did not directly address the Estrada presumption, however, and we adhered to that presumption in the years that followed. (See People v. Nasalga (1996) 12 Cal.4th 784, 792, 50 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 910 P.2d 1380 (plur. opn.); see also id. at p. 799, 50 Cal.Rptr.2d 88, 910 P.2d 1380 (conc. opn. of Kennard, J.).) More recently, our Legislature conveyed that "the purpose of sentencing is public safety achieved through punishment, rehabilitation, and restorative justice" — echoing a premise on which Estrada was based. ( Pen. Code, § 1170, subd. (a)(1), as amended by Stats. 2016, ch. 696, § 1.) And regardless of the reasons for imposing punishment, ameliorative legislation reflects a determination that a "former penalty was too severe and that lighter punishment is proper." ( Estrada , supra , 63 Cal.2d at p. 745, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.)

Estrada thus continues to stand for the proposition that (i) in the absence of a contrary indication of legislative intent, (ii) legislation that ameliorates punishment (iii) applies to all cases that are not yet final as of the legislation's effective date.

Our case law has explored each of those three issues. First, we have considered whether an enactment was intended to apply only prospectively. (See, e.g., In re Kapperman (1974) 11 Cal.3d 542, 546, 114 Cal.Rptr. 97, 522 P.2d 657 ; In re Pedro T. , supra , 8 Cal.4th at pp. 1045–1047, 36 Cal.Rptr.2d 74, 884 P.2d 1022 ; People v. Floyd (2003) 31 Cal.4th 179, 185–186, 1 Cal.Rptr.3d 885, 72 P.3d 820 ; People v. Conley (2016) 63 Cal.4th 646, 657–659, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 622, 373 P.3d 435 ( Conley ); People v. Dehoyos (2018) 4 Cal.5th 594, 603, 229 Cal.Rptr.3d 687, 412 P.3d 368 ; People v. Gentile (2020) 10 Cal.5th 830, 851–859, 272 Cal.Rptr.3d 814, 477 P.3d 539 ( Gentile ); cf. People v. Vieira (2005) 35 Cal.4th 264, 305–306, 25 Cal.Rptr.3d 337, 106 P.3d 990 [discussing legislation both enacted and repealed during pendency of a case].) An express indication of intent is sufficient but not necessary to overcome the Estrada presumption. ( Conley , at p. 656, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 622, 373 P.3d 435.) For example, "when ameliorative legislation sets out a specific mechanism as the exclusive avenue for retroactive relief, we have held that such legislation does not apply retroactively to nonfinal judgments on direct appeal." ( Gentile , at p. 852, 272 Cal.Rptr.3d 814, 477 P.3d 539.)

Second, we have evaluated whether several kinds of legislation ameliorate punishment.

487 P.3d 978

Our precedent relevant to that issue focuses primarily on whether a change in law is ameliorative. (See, e.g., People v. Francis (1969) 71 Cal.2d 66, 76, 75 Cal.Rptr. 199, 450 P.2d 591 [discretion to impose lesser punishment]; In re Boyle (1974) 11 Cal.3d 165, 168, 113 Cal.Rptr. 99, 520 P.2d 723 [limiting class of persons who may be denied bail]; People v....

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  • People v. Flores, F081903
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 12 d2 Abril d2 2022
    ...814, 477 P.3d 539, citing Estrada, supra , 63 Cal.2d at pp. 744–745, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948 ; accord, People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 673 & 675–676, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ; Stamps, supra , 9 Cal.5th at p. 699, 264 Cal.Rptr.3d 769, 467 P.3d 168.) "This presumpti......
  • Tan v. Superior Court of San Mateo Cnty., A163715
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 10 d4 Março d4 2022
    ...nonfinal cases, it applies retroactively. (Grassi , supra , 73 Cal.App.5th at p. 289, 288 Cal.Rptr.3d 385 ; People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 675, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ; People v. Frahs (2020) 9 Cal.5th 618, 631–632, 264 Cal.Rptr.3d 292, 466 P.3d 844 ; In re Estrada (19......
  • People v. Padilla, S263375
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 d4 Maio d4 2022
    ...948 ( Estrada ).) When that presumption applies, its retroactivity rule extends to all "nonfinal judgments." ( People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 677, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ( Esquivel ).) Applying that rule, we unanimously concluded two years after Proposition 57 passed t......
  • People v. Pinedo, F078442
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 15 d4 Julho d4 2021
    ...was sentenced on November 8, 2018, and the parties do not dispute that his conviction is not yet final. ( People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 676, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ( Esquivel ); 280 Cal.Rptr.3d 900 People v. McKenzie (2020) 9 Cal.5th 40, 46, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 224, 459 P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
91 cases
  • People v. Flores, F081903
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 12 d2 Abril d2 2022
    ...814, 477 P.3d 539, citing Estrada, supra , 63 Cal.2d at pp. 744–745, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948 ; accord, People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 673 & 675–676, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ; Stamps, supra , 9 Cal.5th at p. 699, 264 Cal.Rptr.3d 769, 467 P.3d 168.) "This presumpti......
  • Tan v. Superior Court of San Mateo Cnty., A163715
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 10 d4 Março d4 2022
    ...nonfinal cases, it applies retroactively. (Grassi , supra , 73 Cal.App.5th at p. 289, 288 Cal.Rptr.3d 385 ; People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 675, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ; People v. Frahs (2020) 9 Cal.5th 618, 631–632, 264 Cal.Rptr.3d 292, 466 P.3d 844 ; In re Estrada (19......
  • People v. Padilla, S263375
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 d4 Maio d4 2022
    ...948 ( Estrada ).) When that presumption applies, its retroactivity rule extends to all "nonfinal judgments." ( People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 677, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ( Esquivel ).) Applying that rule, we unanimously concluded two years after Proposition 57 passed t......
  • People v. Pinedo, F078442
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 15 d4 Julho d4 2021
    ...was sentenced on November 8, 2018, and the parties do not dispute that his conviction is not yet final. ( People v. Esquivel (2021) 11 Cal.5th 671, 676, 279 Cal.Rptr.3d 659, 487 P.3d 974 ( Esquivel ); 280 Cal.Rptr.3d 900 People v. McKenzie (2020) 9 Cal.5th 40, 46, 259 Cal.Rptr.3d 224, 459 P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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