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Name: People v. Brown
Case #: E063384
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/17/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 4/27/2016: S233274

Proposition 47 applies to felony convictions that are based on negotiated pleas, as plea agreements contemplate changes in the law. Brown pleaded guilty to felony receiving stolen property (Pen. Code, § 496, subd. (a)). In exchange, the prosecution dismissed two additional counts of felony receiving stolen property and three counts of identity theft (Pen. Code, § 530.5, subd. (a)). The plea provided a stipulated two-year county jail sentence. After the passage of Proposition 47, Brown’s petition to have her felony reduced to a misdemeanor was granted. The prosecution appealed, claiming Brown breached her plea agreement. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 47 reduced certain drug and theft offenses from felonies to misdemeanors for qualified defendants. It provides a mechanism for resentencing of certain defendants currently serving a felony term for listed offenses. A conviction for receiving stolen property with a value of $950 or less is now a misdemeanor and a qualified defendant serving a felony term for this offense is eligible for resentencing. Under the plain language of the statute (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (a)) felony convictions obtained by plea are eligible for resentencing. Nothing in the plea agreement insulated it from changes in the law. “Although the parties and the trial court may not unilaterally alter the terms of a plea bargain, subsequent statutory enactments or amendments adopted by the Legislature or the voters exercising the initiative power may have the effect of altering the terms of the plea bargain.” (Disagreeing with the contrary holding in Harris v. Superior Court (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 244, review granted 2/24/2016 (S231489/B264839).)

The prosecution is not entitled to withdraw from the plea agreement and reinstate dismissed charges where the trial court resentences a felony to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47. The prosecution sought to withdraw from the plea and reinstate the dismissed counts because appellant breached the terms of the plea agreement. Critical to the concept of plea agreements is the idea of reciprocal benefits. “When a defendant gains total relief from his vulnerability to sentence, the state is substantially deprived of the benefits for which it agreed to enter the bargain.” (People v. Collins (1978) 21 Cal.3d 208, 215.) But Proposition 47 merely reduced Brown’s sentence; she remains convicted (disagreeing with Harris v. Superior Court (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 244, review granted 2/24/2016 (S231489/B264839)). Thus, the prosecution is not entitled to withdraw from the plea agreement.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: