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State Prison Sentence Violates Equal Protection Principles

People v. Fisher Docket: A161128 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: November 16, 2021. Fisher was stopped for reckless driving and officers found, in his car's trunk, three pipe bombs that could cause serious injury to anyone holding them when lit. Fisher was released on bail. The friend who facilitated his release found chemicals in Fisher's garage and called the police, who found chemical powders and an AR-15 rifle, with no serial number, capable of accepting a magazine. Fisher was convicted of five destructive device felonies. Three offenses were subject to sentences served in county jail (Penal Code section 1170(h)) but Fisher was also convicted of two felony counts of simple possession of a destructive device, a “wobbler” offense that is not county jail eligible under section 1170(h). The court ordered that Fisher’s entire sentence be served in state prison. Fisher argued the disparate punishment of offenders convicted of the simple possession crime violates constitutional equal protection principles by treating similarly situated classes of offenders differently with no rational basis for the disparate treatment. The court of appeal found that persons charged with the various destructive device offenses are similarly situated and that there is no realistically conceivable legislative purpose to require a state prison sentence for those convicted of possession while affording the benefits of county jail incarceration for the 1170(h)-eligible offenses. The court concluded that the proper remedy is to reform section 18710 by making its violation punishable under section 1170(h). #equalprotection #prisonsentences #sentencereform


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