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Name: People v. Mazumder
Case #: G054966
Court: CA Supreme Court
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 04/24/2019
Summary

A defendant who pleads guilty to at least one charged count is statutorily precluded from a finding of factual innocence under Penal Code section 851.8, subdivision (c), because a conviction has occurred in the defendant’s case. Mazumder pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense in exchange for the dismissal of two felony offenses. The case was ultimately dismissed under Penal Code section 1203.4, subdivision (a)(1) following Mazumder’s successful completion of informal probation. Mazumder then filed a petition under section 851.8, subdivision (c) for a finding of factual innocence and the sealing and destruction of his arrest records. The trial court denied the petition, concluding that the relief is available only where no conviction has occurred. Mazumder appealed. Held: Affirmed. Under section 851.8, a factually innocent person may petition the court to have his or her arrest records sealed and destroyed in three different situations. The portion of the statute at issue in this case was subdivision (c), which provides that “[i]n any case where a person has been arrested, and an accusatory pleading has been filed, but where no conviction has occurred, the defendant may, at any time after dismissal of the action, petition” for a finding of factual innocence. After analyzing the statute, the Court of Appeal concluded that Mazumder did not meet the requirement in section 851, subdivision (c) that “no conviction has occurred” in his case. “When a defendant pleads guilty to a felony or misdemeanor crime a ‘conviction has occurred’ in the case, regardless of the particular crime.” Section 851.8 is for the benefit of defendants who have not committed a crime. Allowing Mazumder to move forward with a factual innocence petition as to the felony charges would be inconsistent with the statute and lead to absurd results related to the sealing and destruction of records. The court distinguished People v. Laiwala (2006) 143 Cal.App.4th 1065, which addressed a factual innocence petition filed after the defendant’s conviction was reversed on appeal.

Dismissal of an action under Penal Code section 1203.4 following successful completion of probation does not expunge the defendant’s conviction with regard to a defendant’s filing a petition for a finding of factual innocence. Mazumder argued that no conviction occurred because his petition to dismiss the action under section 1203.4 had been granted. The Court of Appeal disagreed. While relief under section 1203.4 does offer substantial benefits, it does not expunge the prior conviction or make the conviction records unavailable to the public. In any subsequent prosecution of the defendant of any other offense, the prior conviction may be pleaded and proved and have the same effect as if probation had not been granted or the accusation or information dismissed. The prior conviction continues to exist in perpetuity, despite the dismissal. Thus, even though Mazumder was relieved from the penalties and disabilities that would otherwise result from his conviction, the conviction still occurred, rendering him ineligible for relief under section 851.8.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/G054966.PDF