Wednesday, January 30, 2013
C.A. Rules for Defendant on Realignment Act Credits
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A defendant who committed a crime before the Criminal Justice Realignment Act of 2011 went into effect was entitled to full, day-for-day pre-sentence credits for good conduct, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held yesterday.
Div. Three ruled that defendants whose crimes were committed between Sept. 28, 2010 and Oct. 1, 2011 must be given pre-sentencing conduct credits as if sentenced under prior law, even though such a defendant may be required as a result of the realignment act to serve the sentence in local custody.
In 2011 a jury convicted Pheap Hul of cocaine possession. Hul did not make bail and remained in jail for approximately four months until Orange Superior Court Judge Richard W. Stanford Jr.—who has since been removed from office—imposed the low-term of 16 months in what would have been state prison had Hul been sentenced a month earlier. Instead, in accordance with the new act, Stanford remanded Hul to local custody to serve his term.
At sentencing, Hul requested “day-for-day” pre-sentence conduct credits. Stanford determined, however, that the maximum potential conduct credits available to Hul for serving his term in local custody were two days for every four days of actual custody.
On appeal, Hul argued, and the attorney general agreed, that he was entitled to full, day-for-day pre-sentence credit, which the Legislature had authorized in order to incentivize those sentenced to state prison, other than those convicted of sex offenses and serious felonies, to behave well while in local custody. Those sentenced before Oct. 1, 2011 to local jail time, where sentences were typically shorter, received pre-sentence conduct credit at only half rate.
Under the Realignment Act, however, felony offenses with a determinate term, other than those involving serious or violent current or prior felonies or a gang enhancement or sex offender registration, are generally punished by “imprisonment in a county jail” instead of a state prison. Hul’s sentencing for possession fell within those new rules.
At the same time as it enacted the realignment statute, the Legislature amended Sec. 4019, which now provides that pre-sentence conduct credit for defendants who committed their crimes after Oct.1, 2011 is earned at a full, day-for-day rate. For crimes committed before that date, the Realignment Act provides that such credit shall be calculated at the rate required by the prior law.
The panel held that since the 16-month sentence Stanford imposed would have been served in state prison under former Health and Safety Code Sec. 11350, rather than in county jail, the applicable rate of pre-sentence conduct credit would have been full, day-for-day credit. Since Stanford determined that Hul was entitled to credit for good conduct, he was entitled to credit at the full, day-for-day rate.
Justice Richard Aronson wrote the opinion in which Justices Richard Fybel and David Thompson agreed.
The case is People v. Hul; 13 S.O.S. 429.
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