People v. Hoffman – Case Brief Summary (California)

In People v. Hoffman (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 1, the committing magistrate denied the defendant's motion to suppress at the preliminary examination. (People v. Hoffman, supra, 88 Cal.App.4th at p. 2.)

After being charged by information, the defendant pled guilty without renewing his motion to suppress. (Ibid.)

On appeal, he sought review of the magistrate's ruling, but Division Three of the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District concluded he had "waived his right to appeal by failing to renew his suppression motion before the trial judge." (Ibid.)

The Hoffman court "agreed with the result reached in People v. Hart (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 479, but for a different reason: the constitutional amendment creating a unified court system specifically provided for trial court review of preliminary hearing suppression motions." (Hoffman, at p. 3.)

What the Hoffman court was referring to was former section 23 of article VI of the California Constitution, which had been added in 1998 by Proposition 220 at the outset of the trial court unification process. Subdivision (c) of former section 23 provided in pertinent part that "except as provided by statute to the contrary, in any county in which the superior and municipal courts become unified ... ... (7) Penal Code procedures that necessitate superior court review of, or action based on, a ruling or order by a municipal court judge shall be performed by a superior court judge other than the judge who originally made the ruling or order." As the Hoffman court noted, the purpose of subdivision (c)(7) was to " 'preserve single judge review of preliminary criminal matters under Penal Code Sections 995 (setting aside indictment or information) and 1538.5 (motion to suppress).' (Trial Court Unification: Constitutional Revision (SCA 3) (Jan. 1994) 24 Cal. Law Revision Com. Rep. (1994) pp. 1, 83.)" (People v. Hoffman, supra, 88 Cal.App.4th at p. 3.)

In essence, the Hoffman court concluded that this constitutional provision recognized the continuing vitality of the Lilienthal rule (People v. Lilienthal (1978) 22 Cal.3d 891) in the wake of trial court unification, the only difference being that review of the magistrate's ruling would have to be by a different superior court judge than the one who served as the magistrate, unless the Legislature enacted a statute providing otherwise. (See People v. Hoffman, supra, 88 Cal.App.4th at p. 3.)