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Name: People v. Labora
Case #: E050692
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/08/2010

The court has no authority to substitute itself as the representative of the People In the plea bargaining process and to agree to a disposition of the case over prosecutorial objection. On the date of trial, the court stated that it had found a change of plea form on the bench and proceeded to accept appellant’s guilty pleas to forcible spousal rape, assault likely to cause great bodily injury with use of a weapon, criminal threats, and false imprisonment. The plea form indicated that it was a plea to the court with a custody term of six years. The prosecutor objected to the plea because it was on the day set for jury selection and because the court had initially given an indicated sentence of six years with consideration to consecutive sentences which would add eight months to the term and, instead, heard the defense request for six years. According to the prosecutor, this amounted to judicial plea bargaining. The appellate court initially found that the People could raise the issue because, if judicial plea bargaining occurred, it did so in contravention of Penal Code section 1192.7, which prohibits plea bargaining in a case alleging a serious felony, and the resulting sentence, therefore, was unlawful. The court then found that judicial plea bargaining had indeed occurred in this case. Where a defendant admits all charges, the court may give an indicated sentence and no prosecutorial consent is required. Here, the trial court’s indicated sentence was six years with the possibility of running one of the counts consecutive. However, appellant entered his plea on condition that he would receive a six-year term, and when taking the pleas, the court stated it would run all other counts concurrent. This was a modification of the court’s indicated sentence of a possible consecutive term. Accordingly, the six-year sentence imposed was the result of judicial plea bargaining. The appellate court ruled that the remedy for the unauthorized action was reversal of the judgment to provide appellant with the opportunity to withdraw his pleas, as opposed to specific performance of the initially indicated sentence.