Constitutional Law

It’s Not the 40 Years that Hurts, its the $20 Fee

I had to read the first few paragraphs of People v. Alford, case no. S142508 (Dec. 3, 2007) several times before it sunk in. The defendant was convicted of second degree robbery. The court imposed a $20 court security fee under Penal Code section 1465.8. Oh yeah . . . defendant also got sentenced to 40 years in prison (he had eight prior felonies).

Facing 40 years imprisonment, he promptly appealed . . . the $20 fee. At least, that’s how it might appear from reading only the Supreme Court opinion. If you look up the Court of Appeal decision, you’ll see that defendant also appealed on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct and that the court improperly commented on hearsay evidence.

But the $20 fee is the only portion of the decision that was reported, and the only part of the case to be considered by the Supreme Court. The court holds section 1465.8 is retroactive and that the retroactivity does not violate the Ex Post Facto clauses of the state or federal constitutions.