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Store Robbery Case in California

In People v. Bradford (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 1322, evidence was presented at the defendant's trial that he robbed several stores, and had a pair of wire cutters in his pocket when arrested. (Bradford, supra, at pp. 1329-1330.) He was convicted of three counts of robbery, and was sentenced as a "three strikes" offender. (Id. at p. 1327.)

In denying the defendant's petition for recall and for resentencing, the trial court ruled that he was ineligible for relief, concluding that because he had a pair of wire cutters when arrested, he had been armed with a deadly weapon during the commission of the robberies. (Id. at p. 1330.)

The appellate court concluded that in the absence of verdicts or special findings resolving the defendant's eligibility for resentencing, trial courts are authorized to make independent factual determinations regarding the eligibility criteria stated above. (Bradford, supra, 227 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1331-1334, 1336-1337.) In so concluding, the court noted that the eligibility criteria did not describe or "clearly equate to" any offenses or enhancements. (Id. at p. 1332.)

The court further determined that the trial court's independent determination of eligibility facts does not enhance a defendant's existing sentence, and thus does not implicate his or her right under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution to have essential facts found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, as set forth in Apprendi v. New Jersey (2000) 530 U.S. 466, 490 (Apprendi). (Bradford, supra, at pp. 1334-1336.)

In discussing the independent factual determinations, the Bradford court concluded that the trial court's inquiry is "necessarily retrospective," and akin to the task facing a sentencing court assessing whether a prior conviction may be proved as an enhancement. (Bradford, supra, 227 Cal.App.4th at p. 1339.)

The court thus looked for guidance to a line of cases addressing that task stemming from People v. Guerrero (1988) 44 Cal.3d 343, 355, in which our Supreme Court held that sentencing courts may examine the record of conviction to determine the "substance" of a prior conviction, for purposes of establishing an enhancement. (Bradford, supra, at pp. 1338-1340.)

In view of the Guerrero line of cases, the court concluded that the trial court may examine the record of conviction in order to determine eligibility facts. (Ibid.)