Hinojosa v. Davey

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Habeas Corpus
  • Date Filed: 09-25-2015
  • Case #: 13-56012
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court; Circuit Judges Fernandez and Fisher
  • Full Text Opinion

A law violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution when it applies to events occurring before its enactment and disadvantages the offender affected by it by altering the definition of criminal conduct or increasing the punishment for the crime.

In 2003, Antonio Hinojosa pled guilty to first-degree robbery with a firearm and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. In 2009, the prison identified Hinojosa as a “prison-gang associate” and placed him in segregated housing called Security Housing Units (“SHUs”). In 2010, California amended its penal code to eliminate credit-earning eligibility for prison-gang associates in SHUs. For Hinojosa, the amendment effectively lengthened his release date by one year by not allowing him to earn any more credits, regardless of his conduct. Hinojosa complained that the 2010 amendment violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution and his right to due process. After Hinojosa’s petition for writ of habeas corpus was denied in the Superior Court of California, the California Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court of California, and the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Hinojosa timely petitioned the Ninth Circuit for a certificate of appealability, which was granted. The panel considered only whether the 2010 amendment violated the Ex Post Facto Clause, which the panel held that it did. To violate the Ex Post Facto Clause, a law must “apply to events occurring before its enactment” and it must “disadvantage the offender affected by it by altering the definition of criminal conduct or increasing the punishment for the crime.” In Hinojosa’s case, the amendment applied to events prior to 2010, namely Hinojosa’s classification as a gang-associate in 2009. Also, by altering Hinojosa’s ability to earn credits, the amendment lengthened his prison term and, therefore, affected the measure of punishment attached to the original crime. The panel reversed and remanded the district court’s judgment, and instructed Hinojosa’s habeas petition to be granted. REVERSED and REMANDED.

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