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Drug Weight Enhancement Must Be Stricken

California v. Haro Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: D076919 (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: September 9, 2021. Defendant-appellant Alicia Haro was convicted by jury of multiple drug related offenses after she crossed into the United States from Mexico on three occasions while transporting large amounts of methamphetamine hidden in her vehicle. She was sentenced to 21 years in prison. On appeal, Haro argued the trial court erred: (1) in allowing a drug trafficking expert to testify that he did not believe that a drug organization would entrust large quantities of valuable drugs to an individual who had no knowledge of what they were transporting; (2) when it declined to disclose private juror information after defense counsel asserted that an alternate juror approached her following the reading of the verdict and told her that some of the jurors had discussed the case before deliberations began; and (3) when it aggregated two 10-kilogram enhancements that had been pled and proven with respect to separate charged counts of conspiracy and instead imposed the sentence for a single 20-kilogram weight enhancement, given that the court dismissed one of the conspiracy counts after the jury determined that the two charged conspiracies were in fact part of a single conspiracy. Finally, Haro contended the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that she was ineligible for a split sentence because of her immigration status. The Court of Appeal concluded Haro’s first two contentions were without merit. However, the Court agreed with Haro that the trial court erred in imposing a 20-kilogram weight enhancement under Health and Safety Code section 11370.4 (a)(4), because the accusatory pleading failed to provide Haro with notice that she could be subject to such an enhancement with respect to any charged count. The Court ruled this enhancement had to be stricken, the sentence vacated, and the matter remanded for resentencing. Given the Court's vacatur of Haro’s sentence and limited remand for resentencing, the Court did not consider Haro’s final argument.

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