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Name: People v. Lettice
Case #: D062445
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 11/04/2013
Summary

Case remanded where trial court failed to exercise its discretion under Penal Code section 969a to either approve the filing of an amended information or deny leave to amend. Appellant entered a plea agreement with the understanding his maximum exposure was 14 years and the court’s indicated sentence was 8 years in prison. The prosecution agreed to dismiss other charges and enhancements. At the date set for sentencing, over objection of the defense, the prosecution filed an amended information adding a new “strike” prior and an additional charge. The prosecution then withdrew from the initial plea agreement. Appellant subsequently entered into a new and less favorable plea agreement. On appeal, appellant claimed that the prosecution failed to obtain court approval prior to filing the amended information. Reversed and remanded. A trial court may permit an amendment of an information at any stage of the proceedings. Section 969a permits a trial court to exercise its discretion to allow the prosecution to amend an information to include prior felony conviction enhancement allegations. In exercising its discretion, the trial court should consider the list of factors outlined in People v. Valladoli (1996) 13 Cal.4th 590 to ensure that the due process rights of the criminal defendant are adequately protected. Here, the trial court did not expressly authorize the filing of the amended information. The prosecution did not request the trial court’s approval before filing the amended information and the trial court did not consider the Valladoli factors. Instead, the court believed the prosecution had a statutory right to amend after the plea. Further, the court made several comments indicating that had it known that it had the authority to deny leave to amend, it may have done so. Remand was required to permit the trial court to exercise its discretion.