By Emma Kantor
WOODLAND, CA – Shayla Owens has a host of misdemeanor charges she’s facing here in Yolo County Superior Court—but it’s a big felony just leveled at her at a preliminary hearing last week that is worrisome.
Owens, now being held on $65,000 bail, was arraigned on theft/unauthorized use of a vehicle, a misdemeanor that falls short of felony charges.
Deputy Public Defender Joseph Gocke represented Owens while the prosecutor was Deputy District Attorney Preston Schaub.
As the proceedings began, Judge Dave Rosenberg was provided with a first amended complaint filed by the People that he said must be arraigned. DDA Schaub informed the court that the change in the complaint existed as a result of pleading requirements under the state law having been changed.
That complaint added a felony charge of “habitual criminal” to Owens’ concerns. It could lead to a 25-years to life charge—people are charged with this who are convicted of three violent crimes or serious felonies.
Right now, Owens is facing misdemeanor charges ranging from the car theft to public drunkenness to vandalism, among others.
“Now if we want to pursue upper term prison commitments we have to prove and plead in our charging documents all the aggravating factors that we are going to rely on for those things” said Schaub.
He affirmed that normally it is not an issue and he does not see this case specifically as an upper-term proceeding. However, he worried about the possible future proceedings of the case.
Schaub said, “If we are going to be offering probation in anticipation of potential violations down the road that would lead to prison sentences, if I don’t plead and prove those aggravating factors then the court in the future cannot rely on them during sentencing.”
Because of this change under the state law, DDA Schaub said he anticipates seeing probably hundreds of these amendments coming through the courts.
Schaub said that in the meantime he will be operating under the assumption that they must be proved now in preliminary hearings which will make the preliminary hearings longer and more complicated, and will affect jury trials as well.