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People v. Super. Ct. (Lara)

Filed 2/1/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, ) ) Petitioner, ) ) S241231 v. ) ) Ct.App. 4/2 E067296 THE SUPERIOR COURT OF RIVERSIDE ) COUNTY, ) ) Riverside County Respondent; ) Super. Ct. No. RIF1601012 ) PABLO ULLISSES LARA, JR., ) ) Real Party in Interest. ) ____________________________________) Real party in interest, Pablo Ullisses Lara, Jr. (hereafter, defendant), was charged in criminal (or adult) court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old.1 The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. In November 2016, after the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” (Proposition 57). Proposition 57 prohibits prosecutors from charging juveniles with crimes directly in adult court. Instead, they must commence the action in juvenile court. If the prosecution wishes to try the 1 We will use the terms “adult court” and “criminal court” interchangeably to refer to the court system for adults and juveniles who are tried as adults, and to distinguish that system from the juvenile court system, where most juvenile matters are handled. 1 juvenile as an adult, the juvenile court must conduct what we will call a “transfer hearing” to determine whether the matter should remain in juvenile court or be transferred to adult court. Only if the juvenile court transfers the matter to adult court can the juvenile be tried and sentenced as an adult. (See Welf. & Inst. Code, § 707, subd. (a).)2 We must decide whether this part of Proposition 57 applies retroactively to benefit defendant. In In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 (Estrada), we held that a statute that reduced the punishment for a crime applied retroactively to any case in which the judgment was not final before the statute took effect. In People v. Francis (1969) 71 Cal.2d 66 (Francis), we applied Estrada to a statute that merely made a reduced punishment possible. Estrada is not directly on point; Proposition 57 does not reduce the punishment for a crime. But its rationale does apply. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court—where rehabilitation is the goal—rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment. Therefore, Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. For this reason, Estrada’s inference of retroactivity applies. As nothing in Proposition 57’s text or ballot materials rebuts this inference, we conclude this part of Proposition 57 applies to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted. Because the Court of Appeal reached a similar result, although for different reasons, we affirm the judgment. I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY On June 10, 2016, the Riverside County District Attorney filed an information in adult court charging defendant with kidnapping for rape, oral 2 All further statutory citations are to the Welfare and …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court