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Name: People v. Cruz
Case #: C069405
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/27/2013

Where amount of penal fine was neither a part of defendant’s plea agreement nor discussed during the plea colloquy, it was left to the trial court’s discretion. Cruz pled no contest to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or higher, causing injury. He was sentenced to state prison. On appeal, Cruz challenged the imposition of $2,450 in penal fines which had not been a part of the plea negotiations, nor mentioned by the court when it took the plea. Held: Fine affirmed. In People v. Walker (1991) 54 Cal.3d 1013, the court reduced the defendant’s fine to the statutory minimum because neither the plea agreement nor the court’s advisement mentioned that the court may impose a fine in excess of the statutory minimum. However, in People v. Villalobos (2012) 54 Cal.4th 177, the court overruled Walker to the extent it suggested that mere silence on the part of the parties and the court provided the basis for a defendant’s belief that his plea agreement excluded imposition of a substantial fine. Villalobos instead held with respect to a restitution fine that “absent an expressly negotiated term in the plea bargain concerning the fine, [there is] no basis to conclude that imposition of a fine within the statutory range constitutes more punishment than what the defendant bargained for.” That rule also applies to penal fines and is retroactive. Here, the amount of the penal fine was not made a part of the plea agreement nor mentioned in the plea colloquy, leaving the amount open to the court’s discretion.

The statutory bases for the fines should be identified. The case must be remanded to allow the court to specify the statutory bases for the fines in the abstract of judgment. (People v. High (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 1192.)