By David M. Greenwald
Woodland, CA – This week the Yolo County DA’s office received orders to dismiss appeals in seven of the more than 30 appeals filed on the grounds of constitutionality of AB 1950. Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens has indicated he will move to withdraw the appeals in the remaining cases.
In a two-line order, Judge Raye of the appellate court wrote, “Respondent’s motion to dismiss the appeal as taken from a nonappealable order is granted. The appeal filed on August 20, 2021, is dismissed.”
In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 1950, authored by then-Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, which limits adult probation terms to a maximum of one year for misdemeanor offenses and two years for felony offenses.
Kamlager argued that the previous system “keeps hundreds of thousands of Californians tethered to the threat of imprisonment.
“AB 1950 rejects business as usual, and instead offers an approach rooted in research showing that probation services, such as mental healthcare and addiction treatment, are most effective during the first 18 months of supervision,” Kamlager continued. “Research also indicates that providing increased supervision and services earlier reduces an individual’s likelihood to recidivate.”
However, as the Vanguard reported in November, the Yolo County District Attorney filed appeals in more than 30 such cases challenging the constitutionality of AB 1950.
The AG’s office under Rob Bonta declined to represent the county or fight the law, prompting Couzens to file legal briefs in each of the cases.
Couzens, in a filing on one such case, notes that AB 1950 became effective on January 1, 2021.
“The day before AB 1950 became effective, the Yolo County Probation Department unilaterally terminated several probation cases, including the respondent’s, under the belief that AB 1950 set new term lengths for probation cases. This occurred outside any court process or legal authority,” he wrote.
The DA’s office, Couzens argues, “had neither notice nor opportunity to object to this mass-termination. As a result of this termination, both the restitution order and a criminal protective order protecting were dissolved.”
He argues here that “the Probation Department summarily terminated respondent’s probation without legal authority.”
Couzens noted that on May 25, 2021, his office filed a motion to reinstate probation, but on August 19, Judge Peter Williams denied the motion but “noted that the victim could still receive restitution and pursue a restraining order.
AB 1950 has exceptions for certain offenses, but Couzens argued that those are “not relevant here.”
Couzens argues, “Under certain circumstances, the People have due process rights to have notice of, and have a hearing with an opportunity to be heard before a judge issues a discretional ruling.”
He argued, “The unilateral termination by probation on December 31st was an unlawful termination. The statutory scheme clearly states that before ‘any’ sentence or term or condition of mandatory supervision is modified, a hearing must be held in open court before the judge and notice must be issued to the District Attorney.”
He added, “The statutory scheme does not support giving the probation department authority to unilaterally terminate probation absent a court order pursuant to section 1203.3, which requires notice to the People and opportunity to respond in an open court setting.”
Instead, he argued, “As opposed to waiting for the term to lapse as a matter of law, the probation department, with no legal authority, took it upon themselves to preemptively terminate respondent’s probation before its conclusion and before the AB 1950 went into effect. Thus, the People were entitled to a hearing on the matter of early termination. The People never received notice of termination nor a hearing, and no court order was granted for early termination that would have authorized the Probation Department’s actions.”
The court has now dismissed the appeals without offering opinion or explanation.