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Name: People v. Coulter
Case #: B203329
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 06/10/2008
Summary

The trial court did not err by deferring until sentencing a finding regarding the factual basis for the plea. Coulter entered into a negotiated plea disposition in which he pleaded guilty to first degree murder and other offenses in exchange for a dismissal of the special allegations which could have resulted in the death penalty or LWOP. He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. At the time of the plea, Coulter signed a Felony Disposition Statement which provided that the trial court could consider police reports or a probation report as the factual basis for the plea. However, when the court took the plea, it reserved the issue of the factual basis for the plea for the time of sentencing. At the time of sentencing, Coulter moved to withdraw the plea based on the court’s failure to determine a factual basis for the plea at the time it was entered. The motion was denied. The appellate court affirmed the judgment. There is nothing which precludes a trial court from making the factual basis finding at the time of sentencing. Coulter agreed that the trial court could consider the probation report for the factual basis, and the probation report was clearly not available at the time the plea was entered. Further, if appellant had objected to the procedure, he could have raised the issue at the time of the plea, and the prosecution could have introduced the police report instead. The probation report clearly showed a factual basis for the plea, so any error would have been harmless.