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Name: People v. Gonzalez
Case #: E063113
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 02/11/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 4/27/2016: S233219
Summary

Defendant’s felony grand theft from a person conviction was appropriately reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to Proposition 47, even though the felony was part of a negotiated plea. In 2011, defendant pleaded guilty to one count of grand theft from a person (Pen. Code, § 487, subd. (c)) in exchange for the prosecution’s dismissal of other felony counts, including robbery (Pen. Code, § 211) and burglary (Pen. Code, § 459). She was granted three years of formal probation with local time. After the passage of Proposition 47, she successfully petitioned to have her conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. The prosecution appealed because appellant was convicted pursuant to a negotiated plea. Held: Affirmed. In 2014, Proposition 47 reduced certain drug and theft offenses to misdemeanors. It provided a resentencing procedure whereby qualified defendants could seek to reduce felony convictions to misdemeanors. New Penal Code section 490.2, subdivision (a) reclassifies section 487, subdivision (c) grand theft convictions involving property valued at $950 or less as misdemeanors. By its plain language, the statute applies whether or not a conviction was obtained via a negotiated plea agreement. The prosecution conceded the amount taken did not exceed $950 and that defendant did not pose an unreasonable risk of danger if resentenced. While a negotiated plea is a form of contract, they are deemed to contemplate not only existing law but the reserve power of the state to amend the law or enact new laws. Here, the voters changed the law for reasons of public policy in a way that was intended to affect sentences like defendant’s.

Defendant did not need to prove that, based on the conduct underlying her offense, she would have been convicted of a misdemeanor if tried for the dismissed felony counts. The prosecution challenged the reduction of defendant’s felonies to misdemeanors because she failed to show that she would not have been guilty of felony robbery or felony burglary as originally charged. Section 1170.18, subdivision (a) is focused on resentencing offenders for existing but reclassified convictions. It does not provide for reopening dismissed counts or require a defendant to prove she could have avoided conviction of a felony if she went to trial.

Defendant’s Proposition 47 petition was not a breach of the plea agreement that entitled the prosecution to withdraw from the plea and reinstate dismissed charges. Proposition 47 does not give the trial court authority to vacate a plea and reopen a case against a defendant who petitions for resentencing (disagreeing with the contrary holding in Harris v. Superior Court (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 244, review granted 2/24/2016 (S231489/B264839)). The grant of statutory authority in section 1170.18 is narrow and the trial court here correctly recognized the limits of its discretion. Defendant did not challenge her plea or conviction, which remain in place. She simply petitioned for resentencing as allowed by Proposition 47.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E063113.PDF