Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mandatory sex offender registration requirement cannot be expunged even if the underlying misdemeanor offense is

California Penal Code §1203.4a provides that an individual convicted of a misdemeanor, who is not granted probation and who is not serving a current sentence for any offense may withdraw his plea of guilty or nolo contendere for the misdemeanor after one year has passed from the imposition of the judgment. During the one year the individual must have served and complied with the sentence of the court. After the imposition of the judgment the individual must also have “lived an honest and upright life and . . . conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land.” Under §1203.4a the individual will be eligible to be released “from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which he or she has been convicted.”

The California Court of Appeals in People v. Hamdon, 225 Cal.App.4th 1065 (2014) interpreted that “all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense” did not include California penal code § 290, which requires mandatory sex offender registration. The court stated that expungement of the misdemeanor offense under §1203.4a does not make the individual’s previous convictions a legal nullity. Therefore certain regulatory schemes which are not punishments are excepted from being expunged, such as licensing requirements for attorneys and doctors. The court saw the goal of mandatory sex offender registration as regulation designed for protecting the public and any retributive effects that resulted from it as being insufficient to justify the regulation being treated as a punishment.

The court pointed to California Penal Code §290.5 as the correct means for obtaining relief from mandatory sexual offender registration status. Section 290.5 provides that in order to get relief from mandatory sex offender registration an individual needs a certificate of rehabilitation, which can be obtained after having the underlying criminal offense expunged. Therefore even though Hamdon’s misdemeanor sexual battery conviction was expunged, his mandatory sex offender registration will not be dismissed until he is able to satisfy the requirements set forth in §290.5 for certificate of rehabilitation.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A delusional mental state is not enough for an unreasonable self-defense claim to 1st degree murder

Last week the Supreme Court of California ruled on whether a defendant can bring an “unreasonable self-defense” claim based on his delusional mental state at the time of the murder. In People v. Elmore the Court refused to give the jury an instruction of voluntary manslaughter based on an imperfect self-defense. The California Supreme Court Majority stated that, “California cases reflect the understanding that unreasonable self-defense involves a misperception of objective circumstances, not a reaction produced by mental disturbance alone.” The majority went on to give a definition between misperception and a delusion: “A delusional defendant holds a belief that is divorced from the circumstances. The line between mere misperception and delusion is drawn at the absence of an objective correlate.” In the instant case, the court concluded that the defendant Elmore was acting on a delusion devoid of any correlating facts when he attacked the victim.

The facts of the case were as follows: Defendant Elmore was mentally ill and diagnosed with schizophrenia; on several previous occasions the defendant had been diagnosed as psychotic and hospitalized. The defendant was living in a rehabilitation center and on the day of the murder. The defendant was visiting family when he began to act “fidgety and anxious.” The defendant ran away from his family members and was seen attacking the victim, Ella Suggs, whom he stabbed with a sharpened paint brush handle resulting in her death. The defendant grabbed the victim’s necklace before running away. At trial the defendant gave confusing testimony about the event and about what he remembered.  He claimed part of the events of that day he had blacked out and did not remember who --  but knew someone --  threatened him. At trial the defendant wanted an instruction to be given to the jury of unreasonable self defense based on his delusions. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion. At sentencing, he withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and was sentenced to 25 years to life for first degree murder. The Supreme Court ruled that the defendant was not entitled to the instruction and the conviction of 1st degree murder must stand. The court reasoned that the defense did not present any evidence that Elmore acted on some misperception of fact in defending himself from a threat, but rather, was delusional about the threat.