By Stacie Guevara
SACRAMENTO, CA – Justin Phillips was sentenced to five years, four months in state prison after engaging in a car chase and breaking into someone’s house, committing theft—all in the same day.
Phillips received a felony conviction for making criminal threats way back in 2002, but the long-ago crime mattered to Judge Patrick Marlette in Sacramento County Superior Court Dept. 63 last week.
Deputy District Attorney Wall explained in May of 2020 Phillips unlawfully entered the victim’s house, intending to commit larceny. Phillips entered through the screen door to an attached garage and took the victim’s car keys.
That same day, Phillips allegedly eluded the police in a car chase, driving onto the highway in the opposite direction. Wall said Phillips was driving a stolen vehicle (presumably the victim’s) where he drove at speeds of 50-55 mph in a 25 mph zone.
The car chase continued onto the streets, where the defendant ran stop signs and continued driving in the wrong direction of the roadway. The defendant eventually crashed into a parked car and ran away on foot.
Phillips appeared for three counts, but the last was waived for restitution and dismissed in light of the plea. The judge found the defendant guilty and explained his sentence.
Because of the defendant’s prior strike in 2002, his sentences for the burglary and evading police officers now were doubled and it could have been a lot worse, said the judge.
Judge Marlette explained burglary in the first degree has a punishment of two, four or six years in custody. With it being doubled, because of the strike, it could turn into 12 years.
Judge Marlette said if the evading punishment would run on top of the burglary, it would be eight months but double because of the strike, 16 months. Judge Marlette said on these two charges, Phillips’ maximum exposure would be 13 years and four months.
Judge Marlette said there was also a fine of up to $10,000 with a restitution fine between $300-$10,000 and victim restitution as determined by the court.
Instead of the maximum, Judge Marlette gave the defendant the low term on the burglary, which would double and come out to four years. Judge Marlette gave the defendant 16 months on the evasion.
The grand total came out to five years, four months in prison. Judge Marlette said the defendant was also ordered to pay restitution to everybody in all the charges, even the dismissed charge.
Judge Marlette said because the defendant already has one strike, if he committed another serious felony, he could get a life term in prison. “Even if it’s not a serious felony, it’ll mean that you can’t get probation and your term will be doubled from what it otherwise would be,” Judge Marlette said.
Before the trial was over, Phillips’ attorney spoke up, asking the judge if the court would entertain a “Cruz waiver” for Phillips to visit his ill father, explaining that “his father is in hospice care and he’s likely going to pass away when Mr. Phillips is completing his prison term.”
A Cruz waiver is a promise by an out-of-custody defendant to return to court for the sentence hearing, not picking up any new cases or disobeying the law.
Phillips’ attorney said he had asked for this in prior hearings, but was denied.
DDA Wall responded, saying, “We are aware that he has asked for the Cruz waiver twice in the past and it has been denied twice. And we are of the belief that it should be denied. Again, he’s looking at five years, four months state prison and we do believe that he should stay in custody at this time.”
Judge Marlette replied, “You know, I would let Mr. Phillips out every day of the week if these were not crimes with real victims and real violence—that evasion puts everybody in this community at risk… Together with those evasions, [they] present an unreasonable risk to public safety. So, Mr. Phillips, I’m not going to release you.”