When it found the trial court didn’t need to reevaluate the defendant’s sentence in People v. Salazar under legislation enacted after the sentencing, the Court of Appeal said, “The Goddess of justice is not wearing a black arm-band today weeping for the California Constitution. [Citation.] Instead, she is, perhaps, applauding our application of it where there has been no miscarriage of justice in the Superior Court.” (People v. Salazar (2022) 80 Cal.App.5th 453, 456.)

Today, the Supreme Court finds resentencing is in fact necessary under the 2021 legislation, which requires reduced prison terms in some cases when “psychological, physical, or childhood trauma” was “a contributing factor in the commission of the offense,” “unless the court finds that the aggravating circumstances outweigh the mitigating circumstances that imposition of the lower term would be contrary to the interests of justice.”

The court concludes in a unanimous opinion by Justice Joshua Groban that, unlike the Court of Appeal, “We find no clear indication in the record that the sentencing court would have imposed the same sentence had it been aware of ‘ “the scope of its discretionary powers” ’ under the current [Penal Code] section 1170.” [Link added.] “[W]hen the applicable law governing the defendant’s sentence has substantively changed after sentencing,” the court explains, “it is almost always speculative for a reviewing court to say what the sentencing court would have done if it had known the scope of its discretionary powers at the time of sentencing.” The opinion says the change in section 1170 was “dramatic[ ]” and “a marked departure from the prior law.”

The court reverses the 2-1 Second District, Division Six, published opinion.