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Name: People v. Chavez
Case #: S238929
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/26/2018
Summary

Penal Code section 1385 does not provide trial courts authority to dismiss actions against defendants who have successfully completed probation. Chavez pleaded no contest to offering a controlled substance for sale and failure to appear. He was placed on probation. Upon successful completion of probation, he asked for dismissal of his previous convictions under Penal Code section 1385. The trial court found it lacked authority after the end of probation to grant the motion. This decision was affirmed on appeal, the court finding that Penal Code section 1203.4 is the exclusive method by which a trial court may dismiss the conviction of a successful probationer. The California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Affirmed. A trial court has broad power to dismiss an action in the interest of justice pursuant to section 1385. Under Penal Code section 1203.4, an eligible defendant may move to withdraw his plea after the termination of the period of probation and seek dismissal of the accusations against him. Chavez, after successfully completing probation, sought dismissal of his conviction due to immigration consequences. A trial court may use section 1385 to dismiss an action prior to judgment becoming final. Though in the case of a successful probation final judgment is never pronounced, the trial court’s authority to exercise its section 1385 discretion ends with the expiration of probation. Thus, “at the point when a court may no longer impose final judgment on a defendant, its authority for granting him relief under section 1385 runs out.”

Penal Code section 1203.4 does not supplant the trial court’s section 1385 authority. “The appellate court here concluded that section 1203.4 abrogated section 1385 by implication.” However, sections 1203.4 and 1385 may be rationally harmonized. A trial court may not exercise its section 1385 discretion to dismiss after probation has terminated. On the other hand, to use section 1203.4, a defendant must have completed probation. Thus, the question of whether section 1203.4 controls to the exclusion of section 1385 never comes into play.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S238929.PDF