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AB 1950 Applied to Void Imposition of Joint Suspended

In 2020, the California State Legislature enacted Assembly Bill No. 1950, which reduced the maximum duration of probation in most felony cases to two years and in most misdemeanor cases to one year.  Under principles first established in In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal. 2d 740, courts have held that the law applies retroactively to the benefits of defendants serving probation terms in excess of the two years under the new law.  The new law became effective on January 1, 2021.

But how far does retroactive application extend?  The following Second Appellate District Court case seems to hold it extends to late December 2019, even before the Legislature began debate on the new law.
Brief Synopsis: Assembly Bill 1950, which became law in January 2021, applies retroactively to December 2019, as the following case summary from the Lancaster Courthouse and the Second Appellate District exemplifies, effectively ending probation for defendant early and voiding the judge’s finding that defendant violated probation.       
It is important to know the facts of this case to understand its significance.  On January 12, 2016, Ronald Reyes Canedos entered into a plea bargain wherein he pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of a firearm by a felon (Penal Code § 29800(a)(1)), one count of possession of body armor by a violent felon (Penal Code § 31360(a)) and one count of possession of ammunition by a felon (Penal Code § 30305(a)(1)).  The trial court judge sentenced him to four years in state prison and suspended imposition of the sentence pending completion of four years of formal probation.

More than three years later (and in fact within one month of completing his four years of probation), on December 17, 2019, Canedos became involved in an argument with his wife, O.S.  According to statements from family members, Canedos pulled a knife on his wife, moved it back and forth in front of her face and threated to kill both her and her mother.

Three days later, Canedos pleaded not guilty in the Lancaster Superior Court (part of Los Angeles County Superior Court) to several charges related to the incident, including assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code § 245(a)(1)) and the trial court (Judge Shannon Knight) revoked his probation.

At a trial on the new charges, a jury convicted Canedos of assault with a deadly weapon and the judge found this new crime constituted a violation of his probation requiring him to obey all laws.  The judge then imposed an aggregate term of six years and eight months in prison.  The sentence consisted of the upper term of four years for assault with a deadly weapon plus consecutive terms of eight months – one third the mid-term – for each of the four 2016 counts.

Canedos then appealed his sentence to the Second Appellate District Court, arguing that the court erred in finding he had violated his probation because under AB 1950 and In re Estrada, he was no longer on probation when he committed the 2019 crime.  Therefore, the four consecutive eight month terms of his sentence were improperly added to his sentence and must be removed.

The Second Appellate District agreed, finding that AB 1950 did apply retroactively for Canedos’ probation for the 2016 matter, meaning his probation expired in January 2018, or two years after he was placed on probation.  When the appeal was pending, AB 1950 became effective, making it applicable to Canedos' probation terms.

Thus, by the time Canedos committed assault with a deadly weapon in 2019, the trial court no longer had jurisdiction to revoke his probation. 

Therefore, the Second Appellate District reversed the finding by the trial court that Canedos violated his probation and struck the two years and eight months’ portion of his sentence attributable to the probation violation.  This made Canedos’ sentence four years. 

We present this summary because it shows how a sentence on appeal is not considered final for purposes of application of a new law, as here with AB 1950. 

The summary also exemplifies the importance of counsel being aware of new laws that may have helpful effect on a case if appealed properly, as Canedos’ counsel did here by “keeping the case open” and allowing retroactive application of AB 1950 to it.

The citation for the Second Appellate District Court ruling discussed above is People v. Ronald Reyes Canedos (2d App. Dist., 2022) 77 Cal. App. 5th 469, 292 Cal. Rptr. 3d 543.

For more information about Assembly Bill 1950, please click on the following articles:
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