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California Court of Appeal: Defendant Cannot Be Convicted of Robbery and Kidnapping to Commit Robbery for Same Act

Jose Marcos Barrios approached a vehicle parked on the street belonging to I. Hsiung around 10:30 at night. Barrios used his gun to force Hsiung to follow his commands.

Barrios ordered Hsiung drive to Bank of the West to withdraw $500, his daily maximum withdrawal amount. Barrios then informed Hsiung that they would wait until after midnight to withdrawal more money to get around the daily limit.

Remarkably, Barrios then took a nap. Hsiung used the opportunity to text friends at 11:50 p.m., informing them of his situation.

After midnight, Barrios ordered Hsiung return to Bank of the West, only to find police waiting there. Barrios then directed Hsiung drive to a nearby Bank of America instead. The ATM there rejected the transaction, and the episode ended shortly afterward when the vehicle was stopped at a police roadblock.

Barrios was charged, and convicted at trial, of both robbery and kidnapping to commit robbery. Each crime carries a penalty of 25 years to life plus ten years. The trial court ordered the sentences to run consecutively, resulting in 50 years to life plus 20 years’ imprisonment.

Barrios appealed, and the Court of Appeal considered whether he could be convicted for both crimes.

The Court noted that California Penal Code Section 654 states that an “‘act’ [which is] punishable in different ways by different legal provisions shall be punished under the provision providing the longest potential term of imprisonment, but in no case shall the ‘act’ be punished under more than one provision.”

The Court explained that when “facts are undisputed, the application of Penal Code section 654 raises a question of law. It is purely a question of statutory interpretation.” People v. Corpening 386 P.3d 379 (Cal. 2016). The facts in this case are undisputed since Barrios didn’t provide his version of events on appeal, so the Court relied on Hsiung’s uncontested account of the incident from his trial testimony in determining whether Barrios committed one act or several.

The Court likened the current case with that of People v. Beamon, 504 P.2d 905 (Cal. 1973). Beamon hijacked a liquor truck driven by Ashcraft. After driving a short distance, Ashcraft fought Beamon, escaped the vehicle on foot, and alerted police. Beamon was subsequently convicted for both robbery and kidnapping to commit robbery. The California Supreme Court vacated and dismissed the robbery charge in favor of kidnapping to commit robbery because it said “both crimes were committed pursuant to a single intent and objective, i.e., to rob Ashcraft of the truck or its contents.” Id.

The Court stated that “Beamon governs” and concluded that “[u]nder Beamon, Barrios’s robbery sentence and his sentence for the associated enhancement must be stayed.”

The Court explained: “If you kidnap people to rob them, robbing them is the whole point. The project had no other goal. Breaking robbery apart from kidnapping for robbery is artificial and unconvincing, absent some event or occurrence that, midstream, marks a transition and redirects the perpetrator to embark on a new criminal objective.”

The Court determined that Barrios’ sole objective was to kidnap Hsiung in order to rob him, and that “[n]o factual development broke the chain of events and showed Barrios changed his plan or developed a new one.” Therefore, based on the facts, the Court ruled the whole episode qualified as one “act” for the purposes of consideration under § 654.

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Related legal case

People v. Barrios

 

 

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