Punishment for Prison Escape Without Force or Violence

In In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, the defendant was convicted of escape without force or violence in violation of Penal Code former section 4530. (Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p. 743.) After his commission of the act, but before his conviction and sentence, the applicable statutes were amended so as to reduce the penalties for an escape without force or violence. (Ibid.) The Estrada court identified "the problem" as "one of trying to ascertain the legislative intent," and it specified that "the problem" would be the same even if the amendment had become effective while an appeal was pending. (Id. at p. 744.) The Estrada court concluded that the Legislature must have intended that the amended statutes "should prevail," explaining: "When the Legislature amends a statute so as to lessen the punishment, it has obviously expressly determined that its former penalty was too severe and that a lighter punishment is proper as punishment for the commission of the prohibited act. It is an inevitable inference that the Legislature must have intended that the new statute imposing the new lighter penalty now deemed to be sufficient should apply to every case to which it constitutionally could apply. The amendatory act imposing the lighter punishment can be applied constitutionally to acts committed before its passage provided the judgment convicting the defendant of the act is not final. This intent seems obvious, because to hold otherwise would be to conclude that the Legislature was motivated by a desire for vengeance, a conclusion not permitted in view of modern theories of penology." (Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p. 745.) "The rule in Estrada, of course, is not implicated where the Legislature clearly signals its intent to make the amendment prospective, by the inclusion of either an express saving clause or its equivalent." (People v. Nasalga (1996) 12 Cal.4th 784,; see Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p. 747 "where there is an express or implied saving clause," the prior statute "should continue to operate as to past acts".) If there is no express saving clause, one will be implied if the Legislature or electorate has "demonstrated its intention with sufficient clarity that a reviewing court can discern and effectuate it." (In re Pedro T. (1994) 8 Cal.4th 1041, 1049.)