Partial Acquittal Rule: Does Stone Survive Blueford?
February 16th, 2015


In Stone v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 503 the court recognized that the “deceptively simple” yet “complex, rapidly expanding body of law” surrounding the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy arose from both the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 15 of the California Constitution.


However, Blueford v. Arkansas (2012) 566 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2044 overruled the precedent which provided the federal constitutional basis for the partial acquittal rule.


Meanwhile, relying on People v. Fields (1996) 13 Cal.4th 289 – which suggested an independent California Constitutional basis for the Stone rule – the 4th District Court of Appeal held that Stone survived Blueford:


[Fields] does not directly resolve the question presented here, i.e., whether the Stone partial acquittal rule survives Blueford. However, because Fields makes it abundantly clear that California’s Constitution is the independent source of its double jeopardy jurisprudence to the extent that it may provide protection greater than is mandated by the federal Constitution, we conclude that we are compelled to hold that the Stone rule arises independently of the federal Constitution and that it retains its validity under the California Constitution until such time as our Supreme Court holds otherwise. We emphasize that in Blueford, the court did not hold that a partial acquittal rule is impermissible under the federal Constitution; on the contrary, it held only that such a rule is not compelled by the Fifth Amendment. (Blueford, supra, 132 S.Ct. at pp. 2050–2053.) Because Blueford does not mandate the abrogation of Stone, we do not believe it is our prerogative to disregard a rule enunciated by the California Supreme Court simply because the court did not explicitly hold that the rule arises under both the state and federal Constitutions. (Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450, 455, 20 Cal.Rptr. 321, 369 P.2d 937.) Accordingly, we hold that Blueford abrogates Stone only to the extent that Stone held that the partial acquittal rule arises under the federal Constitution, and that the partial acquittal rule continues to apply in prosecutions in California state courts. (People v. Aranda (2013) 219 Cal. App. 4th 764, 162 Cal. Rptr. 3d 169, 174 review granted and opinion superseded, 314 P.3d 487.)


In December 2013 the California Supreme Court granted review in Aranda to presumably decide once and for all whether Stone survived Blueford.


In May 2014 Amicus Brief filed by the LA County Public Defender in April 2014 succinctly explains the issue as follows:


The prosecution, as expected, argues that this court relied upon Blueford v. Arkansas (2012) 566 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2044. The defense, as expected, argues that Stone was based upon California’s Constitution and California precedent. The majority opinion in Stone discusses both state and federal law without expressing a leaning toward one predominating over the other. (2014 WL 3373348 (Cal.), p. 3.)


The amicus brief also does an excellent job of laying out the argument and authority in favor of finding an independent California constitutional basis for the acquittal first rule including the following:


This court has recognized that the United States Constitution sets forth the minimum standards of double jeopardy for criminal defendants. Importantly, and perhaps critically, this court also recognized that “[o]f course, we remain free to delineate a higher level of protection under article I, section 15 … of the California Constitution.” (People v. Superior Court (Marks) (1991) 1 Cal.4th 56, 71, fn. 13 citing Stone, supra.) For almost 150 years, this court has accorded criminal defendants more protections under California’s double jeopardy clause than the minimum decreed by the United States Constitution…[T]his court has historically given California’s Constitutional double jeopardy clause independent significance and priority, despite United States Constitutional law to the contrary. (Id. At p. 5.)


Oral argument has not yet been calendared in Aranda.

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