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September 3, 2004

More thoughtful California analysis

With great thanks to Jonathan Soglin at Criminal Appeal who first reported the news here, yesterday there was another important Blakely decision from a California intermediate appellate court in People v. Ochoa, no. D042215 (Cal. App. (4th Dist.), Sept. 2, 2004). In Ochoa, the court spoke thoughtful to the question of waiver and also concerning the applicability of Blakely to fact-finding by judges to support the imposition of imposing consecutive sentences.

On the waiver issue, the Ochoa court sensibly concluded that "because Blakely was decided after Ochoa's sentencing hearing, Ochoa cannot be said to have knowingly and intelligently waived any right to a jury trial relating to the imposition of a consecutive sentence by failing to raise such an objection at the hearing." On the judge's imposition of consecutive sentence, the Ochoa court emphasized the discretionary nature of the decision to impose consecutive sentence under California law:

[A]lthough there certainly is broad language in Blakely that could be interpreted to support the existence of a jury trial right in the face of any factual finding that affects the length of the sentence imposed, neither Blakely nor the cases that preceded it establish the right to a jury trial in connection with the imposition of consecutive sentences and in fact those cases suggest that a contrary conclusion applies in that context.

The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that a court may constitutionally exercise discretion in imposing sentence, and in doing so may consider various factors relating to the offense and the offender, provided that the sentence is "within the range provided by statute" for the charged offense....

This analysis applies here. Under California law, when a person is convicted of two or more crimes, the trial court has the discretion to impose the sentence on the subordinate counts consecutively or concurrently.... In light of the jury's finding (or the defendant's admission) of guilt on the charged offenses, the imposition of consecutive sentences does not exceed the statutory maximum penalty for those offenses and thus does not contravene the holding in Blakely.

September 3, 2004 at 06:49 AM | Permalink


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