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Name: People v. Harris
Case #: S231489
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 11/10/2016

The People are not entitled to withdraw from a plea agreement if a defendant’s felony conviction is resentenced to a misdemeanor pursuant to Proposition 47. In 2013, Harris entered into a negotiated plea bargain where he agreed to plead guilty to grand theft from the person under Penal Code section 487, subdivision (c), to admit a prior robbery conviction, and to be sentenced to prison for six years. As part of the plea agreement, the People dismissed a robbery charge and other allegations. After Proposition 47 passed, Harris petitioned the trial court to have his sentence recalled and to be resentenced as a misdemeanant for his violation of section 487. The trial court concluded that reducing the sentence would deprive the People of the benefit of their bargain and issued an order granting both Harris’ petition for recall of sentence and the People’s motion to withdraw from the plea agreement and reinstate the dismissed charges. Harris filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the order. The Court of Appeal denied the petition and the California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Reversed. The California Supreme Court concluded that the People were not entitled to have the plea agreement set aside if Harris seeks to have his sentence recalled under Proposition 47. Based on the unambiguous language of section 1170.18 and the expressed intent of Proposition 47, the court concluded that the electorate intended the changes in Proposition 47 to apply to the parties to this plea agreement. By expressly mentioning convictions by plea in Penal Code section 1170.18, subdivision (a), Proposition 47 contemplated relief to all eligible defendants. The court determined that Doe v. Harris (2013) 57 Cal.4th 64 provided additional support for its conclusion and distinguished People v. Collins (1978) 21 Cal.3d 208.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: