People v. Sanchez (2022): Amended Laws Resulting in Reversed Convictions
The California Court of Appeals reviewed the issue of whether the natural and probable consequences doctrine can prove an accomplice committed attempted murder relative to Senate Bill 775, which amended section 1170.95 of SB1437 in People v. Sanchez.
In Sanchez, Mr. Sanchez was at a local park with his family when he was confronted by four men. The men threatened Mr. Sanchez physically, which resulted in Mr. Sanchez leaving the park and later returning with an acquaintance. The parties were divided into two groups, separating Mr. Sanchez and his acquaintance. The acquaintance fired a shotgun at one of the other men then Mr. Sanchez and the acquaintance drove off. Mr. Sanchez was later convicted of attempted murder and assault with a firearm based on the prosecution’s argument that Mr. Sanchez directly aided and abetted the shooter and, alternatively, that attempted murder was a natural and probable consequence of assault with a firearm.
What the Prosecution Had to Prove
At the trial court, the prosecution argued two theories to prove attempted murder to the jury:
- That Mr. Sanchez directly aided and abetted at the time of the incident
- That Mr. Sanchez was guilty because the incident would have never occurred had he not come back to the park with the acquaintance (known as the natural and probable consequences doctrine)
Upon appeal from Mr. Sanchez, the court addressed several issues regarding the conviction and the prosecution’s argument. First, the court discussed the natural and probable consequences doctrine relative to attempted murder and SB 775. Then the court analyzed the resulting prejudice in the case.
The court reviewed a newly enacted Senate Bill (No. 775), which changed sections in another Senate Bill. The amended Senate Bill now states that the natural and probable consequences doctrine can no longer be used to charge a person who voluntarily or intentionally assisted another of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter, with that alleged crime. Here, Mr. Sanchez was considered an accomplice because he drove off with the acquaintance after the shooting and witnesses believed their efforts were coordinated.
Since the amended section prohibits a person from being responsible for attempted murder or murder based solely on participation in a crime, the natural and probable consequences doctrine cannot prove an accomplice committed attempted murder. Thus, the prosecution’s argument regarding the natural and probable consequences doctrine at trial is now invalid.
The court considered whether the resulting prejudice that the jury received required reversal. When a defendant is convicted upon a theory that is no longer legally correct, reversal of the conviction is required unless there is a basis in the record to find that the verdict was based on a valid ground. Since Mr. Sanchez cannot be convicted of attempted murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the court had to determine whether the prosecution’s argument allowed the jury to convict Mr. Sanchez in error. Mr. Sanchez was convicted on two theories, one being valid and the other being invalid. The court reversed the attempted murder conviction because the jury relied in part on the natural and probable consequences doctrine and because the prosecution used these theories in their argument, there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the jury relied solely on the valid theory of aiding and abetting.
Contact An Experienced Wallin & Klarich Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Wallin & Klarich can help if you believe you have been wrongfully convicted of attempted murder. California laws are always changing, and the law on natural and probable consequences doctrine was amended in 2019 making it relatively new. Our firm has over 40 years of experience researching the law and always stays on top of new and amended laws that are enacted. We have a number of firms located throughout Orange County as well as other parts of Southern California and know all the local courthouses and judges’ procedures and policies. We have an edge over other firms because each courthouse has different rules and procedures that we are already aware of. This allows our lawyers to focus on your case without having to worry about any policies the courts may have decided to change.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles, and San Diego, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense lawyer available near you who can aggressively defend you from criminal charges and do all we can to keep you free of custody.
Please contact us at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (714)587-4068 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.