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The People v. Ajit Bernard Rajanayagam

November 15, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
AJIT BERNARD RAJANAYAGAM, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, Craig E. Robison, Judge. (Super. Ct. No. 11HF2141)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'leary, P. J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Affirmed.

Ajit Bernard Rajanayagam appeals from a judgment after he pled guilty to elder and dependent adult abuse (Pen. Code, § 368, subd. (b)(1))*fn1 (count 1), and aggravated assault (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)) (count 2). Rajanayagam argues the trial court erred in failing to award him enhanced presentence conduct credits under the current iteration of section 4019, amended pursuant to the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 (Realignment Act), and thus he is entitled to additional conduct credits. We disagree and affirm the judgment.

FACTS

On August 20, 2011, Rajanayagam grabbed his octogenarian mother by the neck, pushed her to the ground, and restrained her by holding her neck. Police officers arrested him the following day.

On October 31, 2011, the trial court reduced counts 1 and 2 to misdemeanors, and Rajanayagam pled guilty to both offenses. In his sentencing brief, Rajanayagam asserted he was entitled to section 4019 conduct credit under two formulas: (1) from the date of the offense to September 30, 2011, at the rate required by the prior law; and (2) from October 1, 2011, forward at the rate required by the current law. He claimed that pursuant to principles of statutory construction*fn2 section 4019's enhanced conduct credit formula applied to all time served on or after October 1, 2011, regardless of the offense date. The trial court placed Rajanayagam on informal probation for three years and ordered him to serve 180 days in jail. Applying section 4019 as it existed on the date of the offense, the court awarded him 109 days credit, 73 actual credits, and 36 conduct credits.

DISCUSSION

In his opening brief, Rajanayagam argues the operative date for determining whether a defendant is eligible for enhanced conduct credits pursuant to the current version of section 4019 is the sentencing date, and not the offense date. The Attorney General, relying on principles of statutory construction, responds Rajanayagam was not entitled to enhanced conduct credits because he committed his offense before October 1, 2011. The Attorney General also notes Rajanayagam did not raise any constitutional claims. In his reply brief, Rajanayagam concedes he is not entitled to enhanced conduct credits based on statutory construction principles. He asserts, however, denial of enhanced conduct credits violates his equal protection rights and he is entitled to retroactive enhanced conduct credits of 37 days.

After the California Supreme Court filed People v. Brown (2012)

54 Cal.4th 314, 318 (Brown), a case where it concluded the amendment to section 4019 that became operative on January 25, 2010, applied prospectively only and equal protection principles did not require retroactive application, we invited the parties to file supplemental letter briefs on the effect of that case on the matter before us. Rajanayagam filed a supplemental letter brief conceding we are bound by Brown, supra, 54 Cal.4th 314 (Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450, 455).

The Orange County Public Defender filed a motion for leave to file an amicus curie brief, which we granted. The Orange County Public Defender argues that pursuant to equal protection principles, Rajanayagam was entitled to enhanced presentence conduct credits for time served beginning on October 1, 2011, the operative date of the amendment. The Public Defender claims that regardless of whether a defendant commits an offense before or after October 1, 2011, all defendants who are in local custody on and after October 1, 2011, have the same incentive to work and behave, and there is no rational reason for treating the two groups differently. Rajanayagam filed another supplemental letter brief joining in the Public Defender's argument. The Attorney General responds Rajanayagam is not entitled to enhanced conduct credits based on a plain reading of the statute. Additionally, the Attorney General states that assuming the two groups are similarly situated, the selection of an operative date was rationally related to a legitimate state interest.

Thus, the issue as framed is this: Is Rajanayagam entitled to an additional 31 days of conduct credits under statutory construction or equal ...


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