California Penal Code 12022.53 - Example Case

In People v. Martinez (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 489, defendant shot and injured a man who disrespected defendant in front of his girlfriend. He was sentenced to five years for attempted murder with a 25-years-to-life enhancement under section 12022.53, subdivision (d). Defendant contended the punishment was cruel or unusual because if he had committed the offense with a knife rather than a gun, the enhancements for knife use and great bodily injury would be only four years (12022, subd. (b), 12022.7, subd. (a)) rather than 25 years to life. Further, his punishment was the same as that for first degree deliberate and premeditated murder committed by means other than a firearm or deadly weapon ( 190, subd. (a)). The Martinez court rejected the analogy and argument. Sections 12022 and 12022.7 may not be compared to section 12022.53, because they enhance the sentence for any felony, whereas section 12022.53 is limited to designated felonies of a very serious type. More significantly, the Legislature determined in enacting section 12022.53 that the use of firearms in the commission of the designated felonies is such a danger that, substantially longer prison sentences must be imposed . . . in order to protect our citizens and to deter violent crime. The ease with which a victim of one of the enumerated felonies could be killed or injured if a firearm is involved clearly supports a legislative distinction treating firearm offenses more harshly than the same crimes committed by other means, in order to deter the use of firearms and save lives. ( People v. Martinez, supra, 76 Cal.App.4th at pp. 497-498.)