Tuesday, November 05, 2019

People v. Martin (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 5, 2019)

There's nothing published by the Ninth Circuit or the California appellate courts today.  So I took a brief look at this opinion.  If only because the defendant's name (like mine) was "Martin."

And it's a somewhat weird one.  At least for a relatively unsophisticated reader like myself.  The defendant is a 22-year old who stole a car in Florida, drove it to California, and then led police on a high-speed chase before ditching the vehicle and being caught.  He's got a bit of a criminal history in Florida, but it seems like he's not totally irredeemable.  And does some fairly strange things when he's caught by the police.  (For example, from the opinion:  "Another officer subsequently located defendant walking on Needles Highway, waving his arms as cars passed by, as if he was trying to flag one down. As the officer approached him, defendant lay down on the ground. The officer pulled his patrol car over and got out. Defendant yelled to him, 'Please place me in handcuffs before your partners get here.' He was breathing heavily and asked if he could sit in the patrol car."  Not exactly how most police chases end.)

But okay.  He's convicted of felony evading the police, and it's time for him to be sentenced.  The court thinks that the chase wasn't all that long (two minutes), and Mr. Martin's criminal history isn't all that egregious, so it says that it's going to sentence Mr. Martin to probation.  But the court also says it's a little bit concerned for Mr. Martin's welfare since he doesn't have any family or friends in California (having just gotten here in his stolen car), so orders a recess for Mr. Martin to talk with his counsel to figure out what the most beneficial probation arrangements would be.  Maybe transfer the case (or probation) to Florida?  Something like that.

Here's the part I don't totally understand.  After the recess, Mr. Martin and his counsel come back, and they say that Mr. Martin would just rather be sentenced to prison than receive probation.  The trial court says (essentially), "Really?"  But, yeah, that's what Mr. Martin wants.  To the trial court sentences him to the low end of the imprisonment range.  Which is still 16 months in prison.

Why would someone want to be incarcerated rather than go on probation?  Seems like a no-brainer that the former is worse than the latter.  Strange, eh?

Though I can think of two possible explanations for Mr. Martin's choice.

First, he might think that he'll violate probation anyway.  In which case, yeah, get it over with.

Second, he might think (perhaps combined with the prior explanation) that given his time already served, the ultimate prison sentence won't matter much anyway.  The opinion mentions as an aside that Martin got credit for 256 days of prior jail time.  With a sentence of 16 months, with time off for good behavior, maybe those 256 days of credits means he's not looking at much additional time in actual prison anyway.  Better that, one might perhaps think, than an extended period of probation.

So an interesting choice.  By an interesting guy, Mr. Martin.