Chiu Applies Retroactively to Convictions That Were Final on Appeal When Chiu Was Decided
August 9th, 2016

In re Lopez (2016) 246 CA4th 350 concerned a conviction which was final on appeal when People v. Chiu (2014) 59 C4th 155 was decided. See The Chiu Doctrine Explained.  The Chiu opinion did not state whether it applied retroactively to convictions that were final on appeal when it was decided.

Lopez concluded that Chiu applies retroactively based on the reasoning in People v. Mutch (1971) 4 C3d 389, 392.

A court’s new interpretation of a criminal statute, which had previously been misconstrued, is not a change in the law but a declaration of what the intent of the Legislature had been. “Whenever a decision undertakes to vindicate the original meaning of an enactment, putting into effect the policy intended from its inception, retroactive application is essential to accomplish that aim.” (Woosley v. State of California (1992) 3 C4th 758, 794 [citations omitted].)

Murder, aider and abettor liability, and coconspirator liability are all statutory. “By limiting the scope of aider and abettor liability in the commission of murder, the court in Chiu was, in effect, engaging in statutory interpretation and declaring the Legislature’s intent . . . .” (246 CA4th at 359-60.) Accordingly, Chiu must be applied retroactively. (Ibid.)

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