Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, February 16, 2024


Page 3


Court of Appeal:

Length of Sentence Is Relevant to Public-Safety Analysis

Justice Robie Says Sentencing Judge, in Deciding Whether to Dismiss Firearm Enhancement, Must Consider When Defendant Would Likely Be Released If Enhancement Were Dismissed


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Third District Court of Appeal held yesterday that a judge abused his discretion under Penal Code §1385 in failing to strike any firearm enhancements at a sentencing hearing due to public safety concerns, failing to take into account the timeline of when the defendant, who was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole plus 57 years to life, could be released if the enhancement were struck.

Acting Presiding Justice Ronald Robie authored the unpublished opinion vacating the sentence ordered by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Delbert Oros and remanding the case for a full resentencing. The opinion was joined by Justices Elena Duarte and Stacy Boulware Eurie.

At age 23, Adrian Castillo was found guilty by a jury of murder and attempted murder when he shot at a car from another car, striking and killing the driver and striking the passenger in the face and legs.

Trial Court Decision

Oros sentenced Castillo to life without the possibility of parole plus 25 years to life for a firearm enhancement on the murder conviction, and seven years plus 25 years to life for a firearm enhancement on the attempted murder conviction. Oros imposed but stayed sentences on the four remaining firearm enhancements.

Castillo requested that the court strike all but one of the firearm enhancements under Penal Code §1385. Oros found two mitigating circumstances under §1385, namely that there were multiple enhancements alleged and the application of the enhancement could result in a sentence of more than 20 years.

Sec. 1385(c)(1) provides, in relevant part, “the court shall dismiss an enhancement if it is in the furtherance of justice to do so.”

Sec. 1385(c)(2) references mitigating circumstances and provides:

“Proof of the presence of one or more of these circumstances weighs greatly in favor of dismissing the enhancement, unless the court finds that dismissal of the enhancement would endanger public safety. ‘Endanger public safety’ means there is a likelihood that the dismissal of the enhancement would result in physical injury or other serious danger to others.”

Oros declined to strike the enhancements and found that to do so would endanger public safety due to the serious nature of the crime.

Public Safety

In finding that Oros abused his discretion, Robie said:

“[W]e conclude the trial court here abused its discretion by not considering defendant’s term in determining the likelihood dismissal of the enhancements would endanger public safety. The trial court focused exclusively on the crime and defendant’s present dangerousness to public safety. This is an appropriate consideration, especially given the violent and callous nature of defendant’s crimes, but it is not the sole consideration. Defendant is serving life without parole so he is not currently entitled to a parole hearing. He could theoretically be released through commutation, but that would be an even more stringent process than a typical parole hearing….Regardless, the trial court did not consider defendant’s sentence at all in determining whether dismissal of his enhancements could endanger public safety.”

Castillo further asked the court to find that he was entitled to develop facts for a future youth offender parole hearing. Robie said there is a split in authority on such hearings, noting “our Supreme Court is set to resolve this split shortly and we are already vacating defendant’s sentence.”

Robie ordered the trial court to consider this request in light of any guidance provided by the Supreme Court.

The case is People v. Castillo, C095889.


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