People v. Olivas, Cr. 19073

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtWRIGHT
Citation131 Cal.Rptr. 55,17 Cal.3d 236,551 P.2d 375
Parties, 551 P.2d 375 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jesus Macias OLIVAS, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberCr. 19073
Decision Date22 June 1976

Page 55

131 Cal.Rptr. 55
17 Cal.3d 236, 551 P.2d 375
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Jesus Macias OLIVAS, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 19073.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
June 22, 1976.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 7, 1976.

[17 Cal.3d 238]

Page 56

[551 P.2d 376] Cynthia K. Cohan, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Atty. Gen., S. Clark Moore, Asst. Atty. Gen., James H. Kline, Howard J. Schwab and Donald F. Roeschke, Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

[17 Cal.3d 239] WRIGHT, Chief Justice.

Defendant Jesus Macias Olivas appeals from a judgment ordering his commitment to the California Youth Authority following a conviction of misdemeanor assault. (Pen.Code, § 240.) The question at issue is whether a misdemeanant between the ages of 16 and 21 may constitutionally be committed to the Youth Authority (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 1731.5) 1 for a term potentially longer than the maximum jail term which might have been imposed for the same offense if committed by a person over the age of 21 years. (See In re Herrera (1943) 23 Cal.2d 206, 143 P.2d 345; People v. Scherbing (1949) 93 Cal.App.2d 736, 209 P.2d 796.) 2 We have concluded that the selective process which permits the extended incarceration of youthful misdemeanants constitutes a denial of equal protection of the law. We hold, therefore, that youthful misdemeanants may not constitutionally be held subject to the control of the Youth Authority for any period of time in excess of the maximum jail term which might be imposed.

The Challenged Classification

At the time of his arrest defendant was 19 years of age. The court was accordingly authorized by section 1731.5 to exercise its discretion and commit him to the Youth Authority. 3 Section 1731.5 operates to divide one class of individuals, persons convicted of a public offense, into two groups. Of the entire class of persons who suffer such a conviction, only those who were under 21 years of age at the time of their apprehension and are otherwise eligible may be committed to the Youth Authority. The remainder of the class, persons 21 years of age and older, may be [17 Cal.3d 240] subjected to only the normal range of dispositional alternatives. However, the sub-class of individuals who may be committed to the Youth Authority is more circumscribed than simply persons under 21 years of age. Since juveniles must be at least 16 years of age before they can be referred to the criminal courts for prosecution and thereafter suffer conviction

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[551 P.2d 377] of a public offense (§ 707), 4 the sub-class of persons who may be committed to the Youth Authority by reason of section 1731.5 is limited to individuals between the ages of 16 and 21 years. 5

In order to understand how section 1731.5 results in a denial of equal protection to youthful misdemeanants such as defendant, it is necessary [17 Cal.3d 241] to compare the maximum period of incarceration which

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[551 P.2d 378] may be imposed under the Penal Code with the period permitted upon commitment to the Youth Authority. Once a person is commited pursuant to section 1731.5, the Youth Authority is directed to retain that individual, except as otherwise lawfully provided, 'under supervision and control so long as in its judgment such control is necessary for the protection of the public.' (§ 1765, subd. (a). 6) In the case of misdemeanants, control by the Authority is limited to a period of two years or until the person reaches his 23rd birthday, whichever occurs later (S 1770 )7, unless an order for further dention is made pursuant to sections 1800--1803. 8 In defendant's case, the maximum period of incarceration in an institution of the Youth Authority permitted by virtue of section 1770 is in excess of 3 years since he was 19 years of age at the time of his arrest and conviction. In contrast, the maximum permissible jail term which could [17 Cal.3d 242] have been imposed on defendant as a result of his misdemeanor conviction was six months. (Pen. Code, § 241.) Had defendant been sentenced to and served the maximum possible jail term, his incarceration would have terminated months ago. 9

Because of his commitment to the Youth Authority, defendant remains incarcerated, facing a potential period of confinement several times longer than the longest jail term which might have been imposed. 10 The inequity of this situation is further highlighted when one considers that if another adult 21 years of age had taken part in the same assault which resulted in defendant's conviction, had been similarly convicted, and had then been sentenced to the maximum period of incarceration permitted in his case, that person would have been freed many months ago. Moreover, the instant case is not some isolated example of unequal treatment which has resulted only in defendant's case. Even when a youthful offender is convicted of a misdemeanor meanor with a maximum permissible jail term of one-year, commitment to the Youth Authority results, at the very least, in a doubling of the possible period of incarceration due to the two-year provision of section 1170.

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[551 P.2d 379] To reiterate, our analysis has shown that section 1731.5 by its own terms affects a specifically designated class of individuals, persons convicted of a public offense. It divides that class into two groups and creates a sentencing scheme whereby those misdemeanants between the ages of 16 and 21 years of age are singled out for potentially longer terms of incarceration than all other misdemeanants. Furthermore, the duration of such extended incarceration is not insignificant; it may range anywhere from twice up to twenty-eight times as long as the maximum permissible jail sentence; in terms of actual time, the length of confinement can be increased in some cases by over six years.

Recognition of this disparity mandates that we re-emphasize the reasons why section 1731.5 applies to youthful misdemeanants in the first place. It is because such persons have been prosecuted As adults, [17 Cal.3d 243] adjudged by the same standards which apply to Any competent adult, and convicted As adults in adult courts. 11 Yet, despite the fact that they are treated in the same manner as any competent adult during the process which results in their convictions, such persons amy be subjected to significantly greater terms of incarceration as a result of those convictions solely by reason of their age. We have concluded that such a sentencing scheme constitutes a denial of equal protection in violation of article I, section 7, of the California Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. 12 We next discuss the considerations which have led us to our conclusion.

Equal Protection Analysis

As previously indicated, section 1731.5 is a statute which classifies the members of an identifiable group of individuals into two smaller groupings only one of which may be subject to commitment to the Youth Authority. We have in a number of past decisions described and applied the test most frequently employed by the United States Supreme Court in reviewing legislative classifications under the equal protection clause. "In the area of economic regulation, the high court has exercised restraint, investing legislation with a presumption of constitutionality and requiring merely that distinctions drawn by a challenged statute bear some rational relationship to a conceivable legitimate state purpose. (Citations.)

"On the other hand, in cases involving 'suspect classifications' or touching on 'fundamental interests,' (fns. omitted) the court has adopted an attitude of active and critical analysis, subjecting the classification to strict scrutiny. (Citations.) Under the strict standard applied in such cases, the state bears the burden of establishing not only that it has a Compelling interest which justifies the law but that the distinctions drawn by the law are Necessary to further its purpose." (Serrano v. Priest (1971) 5 Cal.od 584, 597, 96 Cal.Rptr. 601, 609, 487 P.2d [17 Cal.3d 244] 1241, 1249; Westbrook v. Mihaly (1970) 2 Cal.3d 765, 784--785, 87 Cal.Rptr. 839, 471 P.2d 487, vacated on other grounds (1971) 403 U.S. 915, 91 S.Ct. 2224, 29 L.Ed.2d 692; In re Antazo (1970) 3 Cal.3d 100, 110--111, 89 Cal.Rptr. 255, 473 P.2d 999.)

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[551 P.2d 380] Thus, in order to assess properly defendant's equal protection claim we must first make several preliminary determinations. We begin by noting that defendant does not contend that any 'suspect classification' is involved in the sentencing scheme authorized by section 1731.5. 13 Instead, his argument is framed in 'fundamental interest' form. Consequently, we must initially define just what 'interest' is involved in the present case. Once the determination is made we must next decide whether that 'interest' is 'fundamental' for purposes of equal protection analysis. We must finally apply the appropriate standard of review to the legislative classification to see if it passes constitutional muster.

The United States Supreme Court has recently had occasion in Breed v. Jones (1975), 421 U.S. 519, 95 S.Ct. 1779, 44 L.Ed.2d 346, to consider the interest involved in a juvenile court commitment to the California Youth Authority. The language of Chief Justice Burger in that case is equally apposite to the case at hand. '(F)or purposes of the privilege against self-incrimination, 'commitment is a deprivation of liberty. It is incarceration against one's will, whether it is called 'criminal' or 'civil. " (Citation.)' (Id., at p. 530, 95 S.Ct. at p. 1786.) 'Nor does the fact 'that the purpose of the commitment is rehabilitative and not punitive . . . change its nature. . . . Regardless of the purposes for which the incarceration is imposed, the fact remains that it is incarceration. The rehabilitative goals of the system...

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351 practice notes
  • In re Eddie M., No. S109902.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 7, 2003
    ...unconstitutional disparity between the maximum confinements of juveniles and adults for both a first offense (see People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 242-243, 257, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375) and any subsequent offense (see Arthur N., supra, 16 Cal.3d 226, 238-239, 127 Cal.Rptr. 641,......
  • Hubbart v. Superior Court, S052136
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 21, 1999
    ...the state Constitution regardless of whether the result was compelled as a matter of federal constitutional law. (People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 246, 250-251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375 [liberty interest implicated by extended Youth Authority commitment is "fundamental" for purp......
  • People v. Suarez, F070210
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 4, 2017
    ...constitutionality of the restraint on [Suarez's] liberty must ... pass the test of strict scrutiny." (See generally In re Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375 ; Mendoza , supra , 10 Cal.App.5th at pp. 350–351, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 361, rev.gr.)Suarez's restraint is no......
  • In re Brian J., No. E038381.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 24, 2007
    ...contends that EDA commitments trigger strict scrutiny because they involve a restraint on personal liberty. (See People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 250-251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375 [holding that strict scrutiny applied to an equal protection challenge to a statute that allowed a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
350 cases
  • People v. Kirkpatrick, No. S004642
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 13, 1994
    ...the law and then demonstrate that the distinctions drawn by the law are necessary to further that purpose." (People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375, italics in original.) Obviously, the classification between "telephonic" and "nontelephonic" threats and t......
  • In re Eddie M., No. S109902.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • August 7, 2003
    ...unconstitutional disparity between the maximum confinements of juveniles and adults for both a first offense (see People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 242-243, 257, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375) and any subsequent offense (see Arthur N., supra, 16 Cal.3d 226, 238-239, 127 Cal.Rptr. 641,......
  • Hubbart v. Superior Court, No. S052136
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • January 21, 1999
    ...the state Constitution regardless of whether the result was compelled as a matter of federal constitutional law. (People v. Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 246, 250-251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375 [liberty interest implicated by extended Youth Authority commitment is "fundamental" for purp......
  • People v. Suarez, F070210
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 4, 2017
    ...constitutionality of the restraint on [Suarez's] liberty must ... pass the test of strict scrutiny." (See generally In re Olivas (1976) 17 Cal.3d 236, 251, 131 Cal.Rptr. 55, 551 P.2d 375 ; Mendoza , supra , 10 Cal.App.5th at pp. 350–351, 216 Cal.Rptr.3d 361, rev.gr.)Suarez's restraint is no......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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