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People v. Fernandez

California Court of Appeals, Fifth District

May 19, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
CHRISTOPHER ISAAC FERNANDEZ, Defendant and Appellant.

         APPEAL from orders of the Superior Court of Tulare County Nos. VCF274407 and VCF295423. Gary L. Paden, Judge.

          Rachel Varnell, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Kamala D. Harris and Xavier Becerra, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Ivan P. Marrs, Lewis A. Martinez and Amanda D. Cary, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          GOMES, Acting P.J.

         Christopher Isaac Fernandez appeals from the denial of two petitions for resentencing under Penal Code[1] section 1170.18, which is part of the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Proposition 47). Enacted by voter initiative in November 2014, Proposition 47 reduced certain drug-related and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. Section 1170.18 provides a mechanism by which a person with a prior felony conviction for an offense that is now classified as a misdemeanor under statutes added or amended by Proposition 47 can petition to have their conviction designated as a misdemeanor and be resentenced accordingly. (§ 1170.18, subds. (a), (f).)

         The issues on appeal pertain to an eligibility restriction set forth in section 1170.18, subdivision (i) (section 1170.18(i)), which excludes “persons who have one or more prior convictions for an offense specified in clause (iv) of subparagraph (C) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (e) of Section 667 or for an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290.” The parties dispute whether the term “prior convictions” is meant to include juvenile adjudications. The Fourth District Court of Appeal recently considered this question in People v. Sledge (2017) 7 Cal.App.5th 1089 (Sledge) and concluded that section 1170.18(i) incorporates the definition provided in section 667, subdivision (d), which specifies that juvenile adjudications are treated as convictions only when “[1] The juvenile was 16 years of age or older at the time he or she committed the prior offense[;] [2] The prior offense is listed in subdivision (b) of Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or described in [section 667, subdivision (d)(1) or (d)(2)] as a serious and/or violent felony[;] [3] The juvenile was found to be a fit and proper subject to be dealt with under the juvenile court law[;] [and] [4] The juvenile was adjudged a ward of the juvenile court within the meaning of Section 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code because the person committed an offense listed in subdivision (b) of Section 707 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.” (§ 667, subd. (d)(3)(A)-(D); Sledge, supra, 7 Cal.App.5th at p. 1099.)

         We agree with the analysis in Sledge, but its holding is not entirely dispositive of the issues in this case. It remains to be determined how the reference in section 1170.18(i) to “an offense requiring registration pursuant to subdivision (c) of Section 290” should be interpreted in light of the definition provided in section 667, subdivision (d). As will be discussed, individuals who are required to register as sex offenders because of a juvenile adjudication must do so pursuant to section 290.008, not section 290, subdivision (c). Furthermore, not all juvenile adjudications for offenses listed in section 290, subdivision (c) qualify as convictions under the definition provided in section 667, subdivision (d), e.g., an adjudication for an offense committed before the juvenile turned 16 years old. We adopt the holding in Sledge and further conclude that a juvenile adjudication for an offense listed in section 290, subdivision (c) does not constitute a prior conviction for purposes of section 1170.18(i) unless the prerequisite conditions listed in section 667, subdivision (d)(3) are also satisfied.

         It appears the trial court relied on an erroneous interpretation of the statute when it denied Fernandez's petitions. The challenged orders would ordinarily be upheld if the trial court reached the correct result, even if on the wrong legal theory, but the record does not contain enough information for us to make that determination. We reverse the orders and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Fernandez petitioned the Tulare County Superior Court for relief under section 1170.18 in relation to a December 2012 conviction for possession of a controlled substance (Health & Saf. Code, former § 11377) and a March 2014 conviction for receiving stolen property (former § 496, subd. (a)). A separate petition was filed as to each conviction. In written oppositions, the People submitted that Fernandez was not entitled to relief because he “has a conviction for an offense listed under Penal Code 290(c).” The petitions were summarily denied by the trial court in orders filed on December 10, 2014.

         On January 9, 2015, Fernandez filed two identical requests entitled, “Motion To Schedule Hearing Over District Attorney's Objection For Re-Sentencing And Reduction To A Misdemeanor Pursuant to Proposition 47.” The moving papers alleged that the “convictions” referenced in the People's oppositions were actually juvenile adjudications for offenses that required registration under section 290.008. The matter was heard on February 9, 2015, at which time the trial court noted Fernandez's conviction for receiving stolen property “would be suitable for reduction, as it appears the value of the property was under $250.”[2] The deputy district attorney interjected: “Your Honor, in this case, the defendant has an adjudication for a sex offense. … That's also a super strike so we were saying that he is not eligible.” When Fernandez's attorney sought clarification regarding which petition was being discussed, the trial court said, “He's not eligible for any of [them] because he has to register per Penal Code 290, and that excludes him from relief under Prop. 47.” Both petitions were therefore denied.

         On March 23, 2015, Fernandez filed a notice of appeal and request for certificate of probable cause. The certificate of probable cause was issued the following day. We subsequently granted his unopposed request for judicial notice of two juvenile court records. The first of those records is a minute order from a November 18, 1999 hearing, when Fernandez was 15 years old, which reflects his admission of the truth of allegations made in a wardship petition regarding a violation of section 288, subdivision (b)(1). The second document is a minute order from a September 10, 2001 hearing, when Fernandez was 17 years old, which reflects his admission of the truth of allegations in a wardship petition regarding behavior proscribed by “PC 288, ” but does not specify the subdivision that was violated. The record on appeal contains no additional evidence of the prior adjudications or any details concerning the underlying offenses.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard ...


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