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Military Veteran Statute Applied Retroactively

California v. Valliant Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: G058568S (Fourth Appellate District), Opinion Date: February 17, 2021. Alexander Valliant petitioned to recall his sentence and be resentenced pursuant to Penal Code section 1170.91(b), a statute which authorized such relief for military veterans who suffered from military-related trauma and substance abuse, and who did not have those factors considered as mitigating factors when they were originally sentenced. The trial court denied his petition on the basis that section 1170.91(b)(1)(B) authorized resentencing relief only for persons who were sentenced before January 1, 2015. On its face, this provision did not apply to Valliant who was sentenced in March of 2015. Valliant argued to the Court of Appeal the trial court erred in its interpretation of subdivision (b)(1)(B), contending the subdivision extended resentencing relief to all veterans whose military-related trauma was not considered at their initial sentencing, without regard to when that sentencing took place. Valliant suggested this broad construction was the only reasonable interpretation of subdivision (b)(1)(B), while amicus claimed the language was “poorly drafted” and ambiguous, and urged the Appellate Court to resolve the purported ambiguity by examining the statute’s purpose and legislative history. The Court affirmed the order, finding (b)(1)(B) unambiguously specified its resentencing relief was limited to cases in which “[t]he person was sentenced prior to January 1, 2015.” It further specified that “[t]his subdivision shall apply retroactively, whether or not the case was final as of January 1, 2015.”

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