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2014 California Rules of Court

Rule 4.420. Selection of term of imprisonment

(a) When a sentence of imprisonment is imposed, or the execution of a sentence of imprisonment is ordered suspended, the sentencing judge must select the upper, middle, or lower term on each count for which the defendant has been convicted, as provided in section 1170(b) and these rules.

(Subd (a) amended effective May 23, 2007; previously amended effective July 28, 1977, January 1, 1991, and January 1, 2007.)

(b) In exercising his or her discretion in selecting one of the three authorized prison terms referred to in section 1170(b), the sentencing judge may consider circumstances in aggravation or mitigation, and any other factor reasonably related to the sentencing decision. The relevant circumstances may be obtained from the case record, the probation officer's report, other reports and statements properly received, statements in aggravation or mitigation, and any evidence introduced at the sentencing hearing.

(Subd (b) amended effective January 1, 2008; previously amended effective July 28, 1977, January 1, 1991, January 1, 2007, and May 23, 2007.)

(c) To comply with section 1170(b), a fact charged and found as an enhancement may be used as a reason for imposing the upper term only if the court has discretion to strike the punishment for the enhancement and does so. The use of a fact of an enhancement to impose the upper term of imprisonment is an adequate reason for striking the additional term of imprisonment, regardless of the effect on the total term.

(Subd (c) adopted effective January 1, 1991.)

(d) A fact that is an element of the crime upon which punishment is being imposed may not be used to impose a greater term.

(Subd (d) amended effective January 1, 2008; adopted effective January 1, 1991; previously amended effective January 1, 2007, and May 23, 2007.)

(e) The reasons for selecting one of the three authorized prison terms referred to in section 1170(b) must be stated orally on the record.

(Subd (e) amended effective May 23, 2007; previously amended and relettered effective January 1, 1991; previously amended effective July 28, 1977, and January 1, 2007.)

Rule 4.420 amended effective January 1, 2008; adopted as rule 439 effective July 1, 1977; previously amended and renumbered as rule 420 effective January 1, 1991; previously renumbered effective January 1, 2001; previously amended effective July 28, 1977, January 1, 2007, and May 23, 2007.

Advisory Committee Comment

The determinate sentencing law authorizes the court to select any of the three possible prison terms even though neither party has requested a particular term by formal motion or informal argument. Section 1170(b) vests the court with discretion to impose any of the three authorized prison terms and requires that the court state on the record the reasons for imposing that term.

It is not clear whether the reasons stated by the judge for selecting a particular term qualify as "facts" for the purposes of the rule prohibition on dual use of facts. Until the issue is clarified, judges should avoid the use of reasons that may constitute an impermissible dual use of facts. For example, the court is not permitted to use a reason to impose a greater term if that reason also is either (1) the same as an enhancement that will be imposed, or (2) an element of the crime. The court should not use the same reason to impose a consecutive sentence as to impose an upper term of imprisonment. (People v. Avalos (1984) 37 Cal.3d 216, 233.) It is not improper to use the same reason to deny probation and to impose the upper term. (People v. Bowen (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 102, 106.)

The rule makes it clear that a fact charged and found as an enhancement may, in the alternative, be used as a factor in aggravation.

People v. Riolo (1983) 33 Cal.3d 223, 227 (and note 5 on 227) held that section 1170.1(a) does not require the judgment to state the base term (upper, middle, or lower) and enhancements, computed independently, on counts that are subject to automatic reduction under the one-third formula of section 1170.1(a).

Even when sentencing is under section 1170.1, however, it is essential to determine the base term and specific enhancements for each count independently, in order to know which is the principal term count. The principal term count must be determined before any calculation is made using the one-third formula for subordinate terms.

In addition, the base term (upper, middle, or lower) for each count must be determined to arrive at an informed decision whether to make terms consecutive or concurrent; and the base term for each count must be stated in the judgment when sentences are concurrent or are fully consecutive (i.e., not subject to the one-third rule of section 1170.1(a)).

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