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People v. Adelmann

Supreme Court of California

May 10, 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,
STEVEN ANDREW ADELMANN, Defendant and Respondent.

          Superior Court Riverside County Super. Ct. No. SWF1208202 Judge: Edward D. Webster [*]

          Michael A. Hestrin, District Attorney, Elaina Gambera Bentley, Assistant District Attorney, Kelli M. Catlett, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Emily R. Hanks, Ivy B. Fitzpatrick and Donald W. Ostertag, Deputy District Attorneys, for Plaintiff and Appellant.

          Gene D. Vorobyov, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Respondent.

          Laura Beth Arnold for The California Public Defenders Association and Law Offices of the Public Defender for the County of Riverside as Amici Curiae.

          CORRIGAN, J.

         Proposition 47 lowered the penalty for several crimes and provided a mechanism for resentencing under the more lenient provisions. The resentencing statute provides that a person “may petition for a recall of sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction.”[1] (Pen. Code, [2] § 1170.18, subd. (a).) Unrelated to the changes enacted by Proposition 47, if a defendant has been placed on probation in one county but permanently resides in another, the case may be transferred to the county of residence. (§ 1203.9.) The question here is where a defendant, whose probation case has been transferred, must file a petition for resentencing. We hold that the petition should be filed in the original sentencing court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In August 2012, defendant pled guilty in San Diego County Superior Court to felony drug possession and driving under the influence of drugs.[3] The San Diego court placed defendant on formal felony probation for three years. Because defendant lived in Riverside County, the court transferred his case there. (See § 1203.9; Cal. Rules of Court, rule 4.530.) In January 2015, defendant filed a petition in Riverside County to recall his felony sentence and impose a misdemeanor term under Proposition 47. (§ 1170.18.) The People opposed the petition on the sole ground that it should have been filed in San Diego. Defense counsel represented that he had tried to file the petition there but “the San Diego County Court Clerk rejected the filing and said they had no file. The whole matter was transferred to Riverside County.” The prosecutor did not dispute defense counsel's representation but maintained that section 1170.18 required a filing in San Diego. The Riverside court granted defendant's petition and the People appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed.


         The People[4] renew their argument that section 1170.18 required defendant to file his resentencing petition in San Diego. Defendant counters that, under the probation transfer statute, because the court of the receiving county had accepted “the entire jurisdiction over the case” (§ 1203.9, subd. (b)), Riverside was the proper venue for his petition. The dispute requires us to construe the two statutes and harmonize them if possible. (926 North Ardmore Ave., LLC v. County of Los Angeles (2017) 3 Cal.5th 319, 328.) The fundamental task is to determine the enactors' intent and to effect their intended purpose. (People v. Briceno (2004) 34 Cal.4th 451, 459.) We give the statutory language its plain and commonsense meaning, and consider the words in the context of the entire scheme and related statutes. (Riverside County Sheriff's Dept. v. Stiglitz (2014) 60 Cal.4th 624, 632; see People v. Gonzalez (2017) 2 Cal.5th 1138, 1141.)

         A. Proposition 47

         Enacted in 2014, Proposition 47, known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (the Act), “reduc[ed] penalties for certain theft and drug offenses by amending existing statutes.” (People v. Gonzales (2017) 2 Cal.5th 858, 863 (Gonzales).) “One of Proposition 47's primary purposes is to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders in state prisons, thereby saving money and focusing prison on offenders considered more serious under the terms of the initiative.” (Harris v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 984, 992; see Gonzales, at p. 870.)

         Along with other penal provisions, the Act amended Health and Safety Code section 11350, subdivision (a), reducing simple drug possession from a felony to a misdemeanor. (See Voter Information Guide, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 4, 2014) text of Prop. 47, § 11, pp. 72-73.) Section 1170.18, subdivision (a), in turn, allows a defendant who is currently serving a felony sentence and “who would have been guilty of a misdemeanor... had this act been in effect at the time of the offense” to file a petition “before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in his or her case to request resentencing in accordance with” the sections amended to provide for more lenient penalties.[5] If an offense “would have been a misdemeanor under the Act, resentencing is required unless ‘the court, in its discretion, determines that resentencing the petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.' (§ 1170.18, subd. (b).) A person who has already completed a felony sentence may petition to have his conviction designated a misdemeanor.[6] (ยง 1170.18, ...

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