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No new cases today

April 16, 2018 Leave a comment

The Cal. Supremes issued no new cases today.


No new cases today

April 12, 2018 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes issued no new cases today.

No new cases Monday

April 6, 2018 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes will issue no new cases Monday.

No new cases today

April 5, 2018 Comments off

The Cal. Supremes issued no new cases today.

Settlement order governing parole must be modified to reflect changes in base term calculations

April 2, 2018 Comments off

Settlement order governing parole must be modified to reflect changes in base term calculations

People convicted of noncapital murder and certain other criminal offenses in California serve indeterminate sentences that run from a minimum number of years to life, making release possible before the end of their life. The Board of Parole Hearings (the Board) decides, subject to relevant statutory provisions and review by the Governor, whether such prisoners are suitable for release. This case concerns the interaction of those statutory provisions with a settlement agreement arising from litigation about the Board’s procedures. While serving an indeterminate prison term, Roy Butler filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on December 12, 2012, alleging in part that the Board had a responsibility to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. In 2013, petitioner Roy Butler and respondent, the Board, agreed to a settlement requiring the Board to calculate the “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. At the time of the settlement agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences. Since then, changes to California’s criminal justice system have altered the relevant statutory landscape, such that “base terms” no longer govern the release date of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences.

The question before us is whether those statutory developments warrant modification of the settlement order to relieve the Board of any separate obligation to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. The Court of Appeal concluded the answer was no, so the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. We disagree. The settlement agreement was premised on the idea that “base terms” played some role –– defined by statute –– in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms. Given this premise, the elimination of “base term” calculations from any such role is a sufficiently material change that it not only justifies — but in this case, requires — modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal also concluded that specific “base term” calculations were necessary to assure life prisoners would not suffer constitutionally excessive punishment. Here too, we differ with the appellate court. Base term calculations no longer play a role in the public safety assessments undertaken by the Board to determine the release dates for inmates sentenced to indeterminate terms, and are not designed or obviously well-suited as a tool for avoiding unconstitutionally long terms of incarceration. And, at least to some extent, these inmates are protected against disproportionate punishment through other means, such as provisions ending indeterminate sentences when individuals have served the statutory minimum term and have been found suitable for release. In light of the state’s current sentencing regime and the existence of parole procedures focusing on public safety determinations, the Board is not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal.

In re Butler


Prop. 69’s requirement of DNA collection is valid for a defendant validly arrested on probable cause to hold for a serious offense

April 2, 2018 Comments off

Prop. 69’s requirement of DNA collection is valid for a defendant validly arrested on probable cause to hold for a serious offense

In 2004, California voters passed Proposition 69 (Prop. 69, as approved by voters, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 2, 2004); known as the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (DNA Act)) to expand existing requirements for the collection of DNA identification information for law enforcement purposes. The DNA Act requires law enforcement officials to collect DNA samples, as well as fingerprints, from all persons who are arrested for, as well as those who have been convicted of, felony offenses. (Pen. Code, § 296.1, subd. (a)(1)(A).)

Defendant Mark Buza was arrested for arson and related felonies and transported to jail. At booking, a jail official informed defendant that he was required to provide a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. He refused. A jury later convicted him of both the arson-related felonies and the misdemeanor offense of refusing to provide a specimen required by the DNA Act. (Pen. Code, § 298.1, subd. (a).)

The Court of Appeal reversed defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction, holding that the DNA Act violated defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. While the case was pending on appeal, the United States Supreme Court addressed a similar issue in Maryland v. King (2013) 569 U.S. 435 (King), and reached a different conclusion. The high court held that “[w]hen officers make an arrest supported by probable cause to hold for a serious offense and they bring the suspect to the station to be detained in custody, taking and analyzing a cheek swab of the arrestee’s DNA is, like fingerprinting and photographing, a legitimate police booking procedure that is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” (Id. at pp. 465–466.)

Following the high court’s decision in King, this case returned to the Court of Appeal. On remand, the Court of Appeal again reversed defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction, this time on the ground that the DNA Act violates the California Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 13.)

Defendant raises a number of questions about the constitutionality of the DNA Act as it applies to various classes of felony arrestees. But the question before us is a narrower one: Whether the statute’s DNA collection requirement is valid as applied to an individual who, like defendant, was validly arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense”—here, the felony arson charge for which defendant was ultimately convicted—and who was required to swab his cheek as “part of a routine booking procedure” at county jail. (King, supra, 569 U.S. at p. 465.) Under the circumstances before us, we conclude the requirement is valid under both the federal and state Constitutions, and we express no view on the constitutionality of the DNA Act as it applies to other classes of arrestees. We accordingly reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal in this case.

People v. Buza


Coming Monday

March 30, 2018 Comments off

Coming Monday from the Cal. Supremes:

S237014 (A139411; Alameda County Superior Court – 91694B)
Argued in San Francisco 1-04-18

This case presents the following issue: Should the Board of Parole Hearings be relieved of its obligations arising from a 2013 settlement to continue calculating base terms for life prisoners and to promulgate regulations for doing so in light of the 2016 statutory reforms to the parole suitability and release date scheme for life prisoners, which now mandate release on parole upon a finding of parole suitability?

S223698 (A125542; San Francisco County Superior Court – SCN 207818)
Argued in San Francisco 1-03-18

This case presents the following issue: Does the compulsory collection of a biological sample from all adult felony arrestees for purposes of DNA testing (Pen. Code, §§ 296, subd. (a)(2)(C); 296.1, subd. (a)(1)(A)) violate the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution or article I, section 13, of the California Constitution?