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Teal v. Superior Court (People)

Supreme Court of California

November 6, 2014

BENNIE JAY TEAL, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Defendant and Respondent; THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest and Respondent

Page 596

Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. NA026415, William C. Ryan, Judge. Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Seven, No. B247196.

Richard B. Lennon, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

No appearance for Defendant and Respondent.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Assistant Attorney General, Victoria B. Wilson, Jaime L. Fuster and Noah P. Hill, Deputy Attorneys General, for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

Opinion by Chin, J., with Cantil-Sakauye, C. J., Baxter, Werdegar, Corrigan, Liu, and Robie, JJ.[*], concurring.

OPINION

[179 Cal.Rptr.3d 367] [336 P.3d 687] CHIN, J.

On November 6, 2012, the California electorate approved Proposition 36, otherwise known as the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (the Act), which became effective the next day. Before the Act's passage, the " Three Strikes" law provided that a recidivist offender with two or more qualifying strikes was subject to an indeterminate life sentence if the offender was convicted for any new felony offense. (See People v. Yearwood (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 161, 167-168 [151 Cal.Rptr.3d 901].) The Act amended the Three Strikes law so that an indeterminate life sentence may only be imposed

Page 597

where the offender's third strike is a serious and/or violent felony or where the offender is not eligible for a determinate sentence based on other disqualifying factors. (Pen. Code, § § 667, subd. (e)(2)(C), 1170.12, subd. (c)(2)(C).) [1] The Act also enacted section 1170.126, establishing a procedure for an offender serving an indeterminate life sentence for a third strike conviction that is not defined as a serious and/or violent felony to file a petition for recall of sentence. (§ 1170.126, subd. (b).)

In this case, petitioner Bennie Jay Teal filed a petition for recall of his sentence. Finding that his current offense was a serious felony, the trial court denied the petition. The issue before us is whether the trial court's denial of defendant's petition for recall of sentence on the ground he failed to meet the threshold eligibility requirement (§ 1170.126, subd. (b)) is an appealable order (§ 1237, subd. (b)). We conclude that the trial court's denial of the petition for recall is an appealable order.

I. BACKGROUND

On April 1, 1996, a jury convicted petitioner of one count of making a criminal threat. (§ 422.) Because petitioner had suffered at least two prior serious felony convictions, the trial court sentenced him to a total term of 25 years to life pursuant to the Three Strikes law. (§ § 667, subds. (b)-(i), 1170.12, subds. (a)-(d).)

On December 6, 2012, petitioner filed a motion to recall his sentence in the trial court. (ยง 1170.126.) He argued, in part, that he was eligible for resentencing because his current offense was not categorized as a serious felony at the time of his original conviction. On January 22, 2013, the court denied petitioner's request for resentencing. It found that he was ineligible because his current offense for making a ...


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