People v. Valencia, 070317 CASC, S223825

Court:Supreme Court of California
Attorney:Michael Satris, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant Clifford Paul Chaney. Stephanie L. Gunther, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant David John Valencia. Three Strikes Project and Michael S. Romano for George Gascon, Bill Landsdowne a...
Judge Panel:We Concur: Chin, J., Corrigan, J., Kruger, J. KRUGER, J. We Concur: Chin, J., Corrigan, J. LIU, J. We Concur: Werdegar, J., Cuéllar, J. CUÉLLAR, J. We Concur: Werdegar, J., Liu, J.
Opinion Judge:CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.
Party Name:THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DAVID J. VALENCIA, Defendant and Appellant. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CLIFFORD PAUL CHANEY, Defendant and Appellant.
Case Date:July 03, 2017
Docket Nº:S223825, S223676
 
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THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

DAVID J. VALENCIA, Defendant and Appellant.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

CLIFFORD PAUL CHANEY, Defendant and Appellant.

S223825, S223676

Supreme Court of California

July 3, 2017

         Superior Court Amador & Tuolumne County, Nos. CRF30714, 05CR08104, Ct.App. 5 F067946, 3 C073949 Steve Hermanson & Eleanor Provost, Judge

          Michael Satris, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant Clifford Paul Chaney.

          Stephanie L. Gunther, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant David John Valencia.

          Three Strikes Project and Michael S. Romano for George Gascon, Bill Landsdowne and David Mills as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

          Richard Such and John T. Philipsborn for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Appellants.

          Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Dane R. Gillette and Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Stephen G. Herndon, Rachelle A. Newcomb, Peter W. Thompson and Darren K. Indermill, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          CANTIL-SAKAUYE, C. J.

         In November 2012, California voters enacted Proposition 36, the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36 or Three Strikes Reform Act). With some exceptions, Proposition 36 modified California's “Three Strikes” law to reduce the punishment imposed when a defendant's third felony conviction is not serious or violent. (Pen. Code, 1 § 667, subd. (e)(2)(C), as amended by Prop. 36, § 2, approved by the voters at Gen. Elec. (Nov. 6, 2012).) It also enacted a procedure governing inmates sentenced under the former Three Strikes law whose third strike was neither serious nor violent, permitting them to petition for resentencing in accordance with Proposition 36's new sentencing provisions. (§ 1170.126, subd. (e), as added by Prop. 36, § 2, approved by the voters at Gen. Elec. (Nov. 6, 2012).) The resentencing provisions provide, however, that an inmate will be denied resentencing if “the court, in its discretion, determines that resentencing the petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” (§ 1170.126, subd. (f), as added by Prop. 36, § 6, approved by the voters at Gen. Elec. (Nov. 6, 2012).) Proposition 36 did not define the phrase “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.”

         Two years later, in November 2014, California voters approved Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47). Proposition 47 reduced certain drug-related and theft-related offenses that previously were felonies or “wobblers”2 to misdemeanors. (§ 1170.18, added by Prop. 47, § 14, approved by the voters at the Gen. Elec. (Nov. 4, 2014).) It also enacted a procedure permitting inmates who are serving felony sentences for offenses that Proposition 47 reduced to misdemeanors to petition to have their felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors and to be resentenced based on the reclassification. Like Proposition 36, Proposition 47 gave resentencing courts discretion to decline to impose a lesser sentence if resentencing “would result in an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” (§ 1170.18, subd. (b)(3).) In contrast to Proposition 36, however, Proposition 47 restricted that discretion by defining the phrase “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” (§ 1170.18, subd. (c).) It stated: “As used throughout this Code, ‘unreasonable risk of danger to public safety' means an unreasonable risk that the petitioner will commit a new violent felony within the meaning of” section 667, subdivision (e)(2)(C)(iv). (§ 1170.18, subd. (c).) The cited subdivision of section 667 identifies eight types of particularly serious or violent felonies, known colloquially as “super strikes.”3

         We granted review in these two cases to resolve two related issues concerning Proposition 47's effect on resentencing proceedings under Proposition 36. In People v. Valencia (S223825), we address whether Proposition 47's definition of “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” (§ 1170.18, subd. (c)) applies to resentencing proceedings under Proposition 36. People v. Chaney (S223676) presents the question whether, if Proposition 47's definition of unreasonable risk of danger to public safety applies to resentencing proceedings under the Three Strikes Reform Act, does the definition apply retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that a court has already denied but are not yet final on appeal.

         For the reasons set forth below, we hold that Proposition 47 did not amend the Three Strikes Reform Act. Accordingly, we need not address whether, in People v. Chaney (S223676), the measure applies retroactively to Proposition 36 resentencing petitions that have been denied.

         I. FACTS

         Defendant David J. Valencia has a lengthy criminal record. In 1995, he was convicted of kidnapping. (§ 207, subd. (a).) In 1996, he was convicted of making criminal threats (§ 422), resisting arrest by threat or violence (§ 69), and driving under the influence of alcohol (Veh. Code, § 23152, subd. (a)). In 2000, he was convicted of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant. (§ 273.5.) In addition, between 1987 and 2007, he was convicted of 12 misdemeanors. Finally, in 2009, Valencia struck his wife during an argument over whether she should drive while drunk, causing a laceration on her head that was closed with staples. He was convicted a second time of corporal injury to a spouse or cohabitant (§ 273.5), which qualified as a third strike offense, and he was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 25 years to life.

         In 2013, following the enactment of the Three Strikes Reform Act, Valencia petitioned for resentencing. He was eligible for resentencing because (1) his third strike was neither serious nor violent, as defined by statute, (2) his third strike was not among the other crimes excluded from the sentencing reforms, 1 and (3) he had not suffered a prior conviction for a super strike. (See People v. Johnson (2015) 61 Cal.4th 674, 681-682 (Johnson).)

         The People opposed resentencing, arguing that releasing Valencia would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety based on his criminal history of alcohol abuse and domestic violence. In August 2013, after considering evidence from both parties and hearing testimony from Valencia and his mother, the sentencing court denied Valencia's petition: “I cannot grant this. I just feel that he is a danger. He is an unreasonable risk to public safety. And, in particular, to the women he's around. I just can't do this.”

         On appeal, Valencia argued that Proposition 47 had amended the Three Strikes Law by narrowing the sentencing court's discretion to deny resentencing on the ground that the petitioner posed an unreasonable risk to public safety. The Court of Appeal rejected this contention and affirmed the judgment. All three justices took the view that, read literally, Proposition 47's plain language - defining “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” “[a]s used throughout this [Penal] Code” - applied to resentencing proceedings under Proposition 36. Two justices concluded, however, that “the literal meaning [of Proposition 47's amendment] does not comport with the purpose of the [Three Strikes Reform] Act, and applying it to resentencing proceedings under the [Three Strikes Reform] Act would frustrate, rather than promote, that purpose and the intent of the electorate in enacting both initiative measures.” The third justice found the text's plain language insurmountable. But because he concluded that the electorate did not clearly manifest an intent to apply Proposition 47 retroactively to sentencing petitions like Valencia's that had already been denied, he concurred in the result.

         In 2005, Clifford Paul Chaney was arrested for felony drunk driving after having been convicted of three separate incidents of driving under the influence in the prior 10 years. (Veh. Code, § 23550.) In exchange for having other counts dismissed, Chaney admitted he had six prior 1984 convictions for armed robbery and for conspiracy to commit robbery, which were all serious or violent felonies, and was sentenced as a third strike offender for the 2005 felony drunk-driving conviction, receiving an indeterminate sentence of 25 years to life.

         In 2013, Chaney unsuccessfully sought resentencing under the Three Strikes Reform Act. The resentencing court stated that it was unconvinced “that [Chaney] would not re-engage in alcohol use and place the public at risk.” Accordingly, the court concluded that Chaney posed an “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” (§ 1170.126, subd. (f)) and denied his petition.

         On ...

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