Tuesday, March 29, 2011

People v. Moon (Cal. Ct. App. - March 29, 2011)


William Moon gets drunk, smokes some pot, and drives through a residential area.  At over 100 m.p.h.  Not surprisingly, he crashes his car.  Killing his passenger.  Moon's BAC is .19.

So he's convicted of second degree murder.  His sentence:  Twelve years of probation and four years in jail (rather than prison).

That's a pretty good sentence if you're Moon.  Sure, it's four years in a not-fun place.  But you could easily -- easily -- have gotten much worse.

So Moon appeals.

His argument is that he should be entitled to work and good conduct credits to reduce his sentence, which the authorities aren't giving him.  He's got a decent argument.  Section 4019 of the Penal Code says, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who's sentenced to or in jail gets two days of work and conduct credits for every six days in jail.  That would shave quite a bit off his sentence.

But the authorities think he doesn't get any credit because Section 2933.2 says that you don't get credits if you're convicted of murder.  However, that's in a section that's all about credits for people sentenced to prison and who have been "convicted" (rather than having their sentence deferred).  Hence Moon's beef.

The Court of Appeal ultimately holds that Moon isn't entitled to any credits.  It's a reasonable holding, albeit one that could have gone the other ways as well.  But it's also one where Moon's chuzpah probably has an effect.  The Court of Appeal expressly notes that Moon got off easy, saying:  "This is, after all, a highly unusual case, where one who has been convicted of murder is granted probation."  So the fact that the statutet didn't really contemplate Moon's situation, and hence is confusing (and contains language and section headings that support Moon's position), doesn't stop the Court of Appeal from doing what it thinks is right.

So the good news for Moon is that things aren't worse.  The bad news is that things aren't better.

And the Court of Appeal basically tells Moon that, all things considered, he should consider himself lucky.  Far luckier than his passenger, to be sure.