People v. Padilla, S263375

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtOpinion of the Court by Liu, J.
Citation13 Cal.5th 152,509 P.3d 975,293 Cal.Rptr.3d 623
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Mario Salvador PADILLA, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberS263375
Decision Date26 May 2022

13 Cal.5th 152
509 P.3d 975
293 Cal.Rptr.3d 623

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Mario Salvador PADILLA, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California.

May 26, 2022

Jonathan E. Demson, Santa Monica, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Cyn Yamashiro, Markéta Sims; Susan Lynn Burrell and L. Richard Braucher, Richmond, for Independent Juvenile Defender Program and Pacific Juvenile Defender Center as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Xavier Becerra and Rob Bonta, Attorneys General, Matthew Rodriquez, Acting Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Susan Sullivan Pithey, Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Johnsen, David E. Madeo, Lindsay Boyd and Daniel J. Hilton, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Opinion of the Court by Liu, J.

293 Cal.Rptr.3d 627
13 Cal.5th 158

In 2016, the voters of California enacted Proposition 57, a measure that amended the law governing the punishment of juvenile offenses in adult criminal court by requiring hearings to determine whether the offenses should instead be heard in juvenile court. Adjudicating these offenses in juvenile court typically results in less severe punishment for the juvenile offender. ( People v. Superior Court (Lara ) (2018) 4 Cal.5th 299, 306–307, 228 Cal.Rptr.3d 394, 410 P.3d 22 ( Lara ).)

Our precedent holds that "new laws that reduce the punishment for a crime are presumptively to be applied to defendants whose judgments are not yet final." ( People v. Conley (2016) 63 Cal.4th 646, 656, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 622, 373 P.3d 435 ( Conley ), citing In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 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 that the initiative "ameliorated the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles." ( Lara , supra , 4 Cal.5th at p. 308.) We held that " Estrada ’s inference of retroactivity applies" to the proposition's juvenile provisions, making those provisions applicable to all cases in which the judgment was not final when the proposition went into effect. ( Lara , at p. 309.)

The question here is whether Proposition 57 applies during resentencing when a criminal court sentence imposed on a juvenile offender before the initiative's passage has since been vacated. Defendant Mario Salvador Padilla was originally sentenced before Proposition 57 was enacted, but his judgment later became nonfinal when his sentence was vacated on habeas corpus and the case was returned to the trial court for imposition of a new sentence. Consistent with our decisions articulating the scope of the Estrada presumption, we hold that Proposition 57 applies to his resentencing.

13 Cal.5th 159


When Padilla was 16 years old, he stabbed his mother to death and conspired with a cousin to kill his stepfather. Following a hearing "at which he was determined not fit to be dealt with under juvenile court law," Padilla was convicted in adult criminal court and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. ( People v. Padilla (2020) 50 Cal.App.5th 244, 248, 263 Cal.Rptr.3d 784 ( Padilla ); see Welf. & Inst. Code, former § 707 [fitness hearing procedure].) After the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama (2012) 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 ( Miller ) that mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles violate the federal Constitution, he petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus seeking resentencing in light of the high court's holding. ( Padilla , at p. 248.) The trial court vacated his sentence, reconsidered it in light of Miller , and again imposed life without the possibility of parole. ( Padilla , at p. 248.) While Padilla's appeal from his new sentence was pending, the United States Supreme Court decided

509 P.3d 980

Montgomery v. Louisiana (2016) 577 U.S. 190, 136 S.Ct. 718, 193 L.Ed.2d 599 ( Montgomery ), which clarified the analysis that must precede a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a juvenile defendant. (See id. at pp. 208–210, 136 S.Ct. 718.) The Court of Appeal vacated Padilla's second sentence in light of Montgomery and again remanded his case to the trial court for resentencing. ( Padilla , at p. 248.)

About two weeks after Padilla's second sentence was vacated, California voters approved

293 Cal.Rptr.3d 628

Proposition 57. As relevant here, Proposition 57 requires all criminal charges against minors to be filed in juvenile courts. Under the proposition, minors may be tried and sentenced in criminal courts " ‘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.’ " ( Lara , supra , 4 Cal.5th at p. 305, quoting People v. Vela (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 68, 72, 218 Cal.Rptr.3d 1.) As discussed below, this transfer hearing differs in significant ways from the fitness hearing Padilla received.

The trial court again imposed life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Padilla appealed, arguing that he was entitled to a transfer hearing under Proposition 57 because his case became nonfinal once his sentence was vacated. ( Padilla , supra , 50 Cal.App.5th at p. 248.) The Court of Appeal agreed and remanded Padilla's case once more to the trial court with directions to refer the matter to juvenile court for a transfer hearing. ( Id. at p. 256.) We granted the Attorney General's petition for review and now affirm.

13 Cal.5th 160


Section 3 of the Penal Code instructs that no part of that code applies retroactively, which we have taken to mean that new criminal laws do not govern prosecutions initiated before the law went into effect. (See Estrada , supra , 63 Cal.2d at pp. 746–748, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) But we have recognized an exception to this rule for new laws that mitigate punishment; in Estrada , we held that such laws are presumed to apply to cases charged before the law's enactment but not yet final. ( Id. at p. 745, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948.) Absent evidence to the contrary, we presume that when the Legislature "amends a statute so as to lessen the punishment," it "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." ( Ibid. ) Because the Legislature has "determined that its former penalty was too severe," the only reason to apply that penalty in pending cases would be "a desire for vengeance," a motivation we decline to attribute to our lawmakers. ( Ibid. ) This presumption applies to ameliorative laws enacted by ballot proposition as well. (See Conley , supra , 63 Cal.4th at p. 656, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 622, 373 P.3d 435.)

We recently held that the Estrada presumption applies to the juvenile provisions of Proposition 57. ( Lara , supra , 4 Cal.5th at p. 309 ; see id. at p. 303 [explaining that although " Estrada is not directly on point[,] ... its rationale does apply"].) Before the proposition passed, "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." ( Id. at p. 305.) Proposition 57 eliminated that direct filing procedure, reestablishing the historical rule that charges against juveniles must be brought in juvenile court. ( Lara , at p. 305.) If the case is retained by the juvenile court after a transfer hearing, and if the court finds that the minor committed the charged offense, the court then conducts a dispositional hearing, where potential custody commitments are less lengthy than in criminal court. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 607 ; see also id. , § 730, subd. (a)(2).) Because Proposition 57 reduced "the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles," we determined that it made "an ‘ameliorative change[ ] to the criminal law’ that we infer the legislative body intended ‘to extend as broadly as

293 Cal.Rptr.3d 629

possible.’ " ( Lara , at pp. 308, 309,, quoting Conley , supra , 63 Cal.4th at p. 657, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 622, 373 P.3d 435.) We accordingly held that "this part of Proposition 57 applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment

509 P.3d 981

was not final at the time it was enacted." ( Lara , at p. 304.)


Our cases indicate that the range of judgments affected by Estrada is delimited by constitutional constraints; as we said in Estrada itself, a law

13 Cal.5th 161

lessening punishment is understood to apply...

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