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The People v. Maurice Ruffin

November 2, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
MAURICE RUFFIN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Kings County. Steven D. Barnes, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 09CM7318)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gomes, Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

OPINION

Pursuant to a negotiated settlement, prison inmate Maurice Ruffin pled no contest to a sex offense with the understanding that the court was to determine later whether the law required him to register as a sex offender. On appeal, he challenges as a violation of his constitutional right to equal protection the court's later order requiring him to register. We reverse.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

On October 4, 2008, a correctional officer monitoring a Corcoran State Prison visiting area saw a female visitor moving her head in Ruffin's lap in an apparent act of oral copulation.*fn2

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On September 3, 2009, an information charged Ruffin with oral copulation while confined in state prison (count 1; Pen. Code, § 288a, subd. (e))*fn3 and with lewd conduct in a public place (count 2; § 647, subd. (a)) and alleged two 2002 prior robbery convictions as serious felonies, violent felonies, or juvenile adjudications under the three strikes law (§§ 211, 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, subds. (a)-(d)).

On May 28, 2010, Ruffin entered into a negotiated settlement in which he pled no contest to oral copulation in return for the court's imposition of a mitigated 16-month consecutive sentence and dismissal of the strike priors and the lewd conduct, with the understanding that the court was to determine at sentencing if the law required him to register as a sex offender. On July 7, 2010, the court imposed the agreed prison term, determined that the law required him to register, and ordered him to register.

DISCUSSION 1. Forfeiture

Preliminarily, we address the Attorney General's argument that Ruffin forfeited his right to appellate review by failing to secure a certificate of probable cause.*fn4 A brief chronology follows.

On July 14, 2010,Ruffin's trial attorney filed a notice of appeal that left box (2)(a) blank (the one that reads, "If this appeal is after entry of a plea of guilty or no contest or an admission of a probation violation, check all that apply:") and that checked box (3) (the one that reads, "Other (specify): Defendant contests the court's order for mandatory PC 290 sex offender registration.") under box (2)(b) (the one that reads, "For all other appeals, check one:").

On February 14, 2011, Ruffin's appellate attorney filed, and served on the Attorney General, an application to construe his notice of appeal "to have checked the box in (2)(a)(1)" (the one that reads, "This appeal is based on the sentence or other matters occurring after the plea that do not affect the validity of the plea."), which, she represented, was the box that "the notice of appeal should have checked."

On February 24, 2011, we granted Ruffin's application. (People v. Brown (1993) 6 Cal.4th 322, 335 ["'The [statutory] right of appeal is remedial and in doubtful cases the doubt should be resolved in favor of the right whenever the substantial interests of the party are affected by a judgment.'"]; People v. Chapman (1971) 5 Cal.3d 218, 225 ["'Doubts ...


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