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Name: People v. Bear
Case #: H044609
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 07/23/2018
Summary

Penal Code section 1170.18 confers discretion on the trial court to grant Proposition 47 petitioners leave to amend their petitions, including after the original petition was denied. In 1980, Bear pleaded guilty to felony grand theft person (Pen. Code, § 484-487) after an altercation with a high school student over a Ted Nugent T-shirt. In June 2016, Bear filed a Proposition 47 petition to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor. The petition did not identify the T-shirt as the stolen item or allege the value of the stolen property. The trial court denied the petition, finding Bear failed to establish eligibility for relief. Approximately three months later, defense counsel filed a “Waiver and Stipulation for Resentencing or Redesignation of Offense” in which the prosecution stipulated the felony was eligible to be redesignated a misdemeanor under section 1170.18, subdivision (f). The trial court construed this filing as a second petition and denied it on several grounds, including the absence of authority for filing a second petition after the first is denied. Bear appealed from both orders. Holding: Reversed in part. Proposition 47 reduced certain theft- and drug-related offenses (including grand theft of property valued at $950 or less) from felonies to misdemeanors. It also added section 1170.18, which permits a person to petition to have his felony offense reduced to a misdemeanor. Section 1170.18 does not expressly state whether a second or amended petition is permitted when the first petition fails to satisfy the statutory criteria. After considering the text of Proposition 47 and its purposes, as well as the policy that litigation should be resolved on its merits, the Court of Appeal construed “section 1170.18 as conferring discretion on the trial courts to grant Proposition 47 petitioners leave to amend their petitions.” Because Bear did not seek leave to file an amended petition in the trial court and the trial court was unaware of its discretion to allow an amended petition, the order denying the stipulation was reversed and the matter remanded.

Trial court did not err by denying defendant’s first Proposition 47 petition, which failed to establish his eligibility for relief. On appeal, Bear conceded his original petition did not identify the stolen item as a T-shirt and did not allege the value of the stolen property. However, he argued these deficiencies did not matter because the trial court expressly stated that it relied on the record of conviction, which included facts in the preliminary transcript that established the value at less than $950. The Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding that a trial court does not have the burden to search the record of conviction for the evidence necessary to support the petition. The defendant did not sufficiently carry the burden, and the original order denying the petition was affirmed.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/H044609.PDF