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Name: People v. John
Case #: E070022
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 06/12/2019

A plea of guilty cannot be combined with a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity to the same charges. Defendant was charged with felony offenses and agreed to plead guilty to all counts. Additionally, defendant and the prosecutor both stipulated to a finding that defendant was insane when she committed the felony offenses and agreed defendant should “serve her sentence” at a state hospital. The trial court accepted the guilty plea and also found her not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) pursuant to the stipulation. Five months into her commitment to a state hospital, defendant attempted to withdraw her plea pursuant to Penal Code section 1018. The trial court denied the motion as untimely, presumably because it believed it had already entered a judgment. Defendant appealed. Held: Reversed; plea vacated. A motion to withdraw a plea must be made before judgment, and judgment occurs at sentencing. However, a commitment to state hospital is not a sentence. Thus, even though defendant’s state hospital commitment is a final judgment for the limited purpose of appeal, it is not a sentence so it did not result in a judgment in this case. Therefore, defendant’s motion to withdraw her plea was timely. Regarding the validity of the plea, a defendant is permitted to combine a not guilty and NGI plea or only plead NGI. However, a guilty plea is incompatible with a plea of NGI to the same charges. A guilty plea admits every element of the crime charged and a person who pleads guilty is presumed sane at the time of the offense. By necessary implication, a defendant who pleads guilty may not enter another plea unless they also move to withdraw the guilty plea. The trial court should have declined to accept defendant’s illegal plea combination. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to withdraw is reversed and its approval of defendant’s plea agreement is vacated.

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