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Name: People v. Bonnetta
Case #: S159133
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/27/2009

The requirement in Penal Code section 1385 that reasons for a dismissal be set forth in the minute order is mandatory. As part of a plea agreement, the trial court reached the agreed-upon sentence by striking most of the drug and prior conviction enhancements over prosecution objection. The court’s decision was reduced to an order entered in the minutes, but the written order did not set forth any of the court’s reasons for striking the enhancements. The prosecution appealed, contending that the trial court abused its discretion by striking the enhancements, and that the order was ineffective because the court had not set forth its reasons for the dismissal in the minute order. The appellate court agreed and reversed the order striking the enhancements. The California Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal, rejecting appellant’s argument that the order could be preserved where, as here, the appellate court is able to discern the trial court’s reasoning from other portions of the record. The statute is mandatory in its requirement, and the legislature intended it to be so for valid reasons which continue to exist. However, as appellant entered a guilty plea in reliance of the promise of the dismissed enhancements remand was required. On remand the trial court can correct the defect by setting forth the reasons for dismissal in the minute order, or it may revisit its earlier decision, as on reflection it might decide its earlier reasoning was flawed or incomplete.
[Ed. note: The process at remand creates potential adverse consequences for similarly situated cases. Both trial and appellate counsel should be careful to check minute orders for compliance.]