Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Court of Appeal Holds That Conviction for Street Terrorism Survives Proposition 47
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A conviction for the crime of street terrorism remains a felony after the passage of Proposition 47, even if it is based on the same conduct as another offense that has been reduced to a misdemeanor, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.
Div. Six affirmed a Ventura Superior Court judge’s denial of a petition to reduce Luis Donicio Valenzuela’s street terrorism conviction to a misdemeanor.
Street terrorism, under Penal Code §186.22, is the crime of committing a felony for the benefit of a gang. The statute mandates a prison term upon conviction, separate from and consecutive to the sentence imposed for the underlying felony.
Valenzuela was convicted of grand theft “from the person” of the victim, with a gang enhancement, as well as street terrorism, in connection with his stealing a $200 bicycle in 2013. He was sentenced to nine years, eight months in prison.
Prior to Proposition 47, grand theft from the person was a felony, regardless of the value of the property. Under the initiative, however, that offense is treated like most other thefts, meaning it is a misdemeanor if the value of the property does not exceed $950.
Superior Court Judge Nancy L. Ayers granted Valenzuela’s petition to reduce the grand theft conviction to a misdemeanor, and dismissed the gang enhancement, since it could only attach to a felony. But she denied the petition with respect to the street terrorism conviction, ruling that the crime remained a felony because the conduct of which the defendant was convicted was a felony at the time it occurred.
Justice Steven Perren, writing for the Court of Appeal, said Ayers reasoned the issue correctly.
The justice distinguished the situation in which a “wobbler” is reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, in which case any enhancement attached to the conviction must be dismissed. In this case, Perren explained, Valenzuela’s conduct, not the fact of a grand theft conviction, triggered the street terrorism conviction.
“When Valenzuela stole the bicycle, he engaged in felonious criminal conduct,” Perren wrote. “That is true regardless of his conviction for grand theft and its subsequent reduction to a misdemeanor. The trial court properly declined to set aside his conviction for street terrorism.”
Attorneys on appeal were Senior Deputy Public Defender William Quest for the defendant and Deputy Attorney General Mary Sanchez for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Valenzuela, 16 S.O.S. 5697.
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