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Name: People v. Harrell (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 161
Case #: E080838
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/01/2023

In light of recent amendments to Penal Code section 1170.91, which permits military veterans to petition for resentencing, a veteran serving a stipulated sentence according to a plea agreement is not categorically ineligible for relief. In 2001, petitioner entered into a plea bargain, wherein he pleaded guilty to robbery and sentencing enhancements, in exchange for a stipulated sentence of 28 years. In 2023, Harrell filed a second petition for resentencing pursuant to section 1170.91, which allows a convicted veteran suffering from a specified disorder as a result of his or her military service to petition for resentencing, so that the disorder may be considered as a mitigating factor. The trial court denied the petition, finding that a person serving a stipulated sentence is categorically ineligible for relief under section 1170.91. He appealed. Held: Reversed. Recent amendments, effective January 1, 2023, deleted language from section 1170.91 that courts had previously relied on in holding that persons serving a stipulated sentence were ineligible for relief. The amendments also added new language allowing a trial court to reduce a sentence “regardless of whether the original sentence was imposed after a trial or plea . . . .” (§ 1170.91, subd. (b)(3).)  The amendments are ambiguous on whether the trial court could reduce a stipulated term. However, the legislative history shows that the Legislature clearly intended to make persons serving a stipulated sentence eligible for relief under section 1170.91. [Editor’s Note: Because the People did not raise any constitutional objections to the amendments to section 1170.91, and did not argue res judicata or collateral estoppel regarding the denial of defendant’s first petition under prior law, the court considered those arguments forfeited.]