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September 14, 2004

Limiting the impact of Blakely in California

Just as most of the federal circuit courts seem to be doing their best to limit the Blakely fallout in the federal system (at least until Booker and Fanfan are decided), the California intermediate appellate courts are working hard to keep Blakely from disrupting too many California sentences. The latest case in point is People v. Sample, 2004 WL 2027285 (Cal. App. 3 Dist. Sept. 13, 2004), in which the court asserts on every possible ground that the defendant's Blakely claim is unavailing:

Defendant did not raise an Apprendi objection in the trial court, and factors used in imposing the upper term and consecutive sentencing were uncontested at trial and supported by overwhelming evidence. Hence, defendant is barred from raising the claim of Apprendi/Blakely error.

In any event, the rule of Apprendi and Blakely does not apply to California's consecutive sentencing scheme, and imposition of the upper term here was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Similarly, in two unpublished opinions last week, two different California intermediate appellate courts gave the "prior conviction" exception a broad reading and application to affirm sentences that are arguably Blakely problematic. See People v. Bushnell, 2004 WL 2011414 (Cal. App. 2 Dist. Sept. 10, 2004); People v. Som, 2004 WL 1966058 (Cal. App. 3 Dist. Sept. 07, 2004).

Among other realities, these decisions highlight the mess that Blakely has created for state sentencing systems. They also spotlight the question of whether state courts will be able to effectively clean up state Blakely messes on their own, or will need the Supreme Court to soon address issues like the "prior conviction" exception and the applicability of Blakely to consecutive sentencing in order to bring order and normalcy back to state sentencing.

September 14, 2004 at 08:17 AM | Permalink


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