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Name: People v. McDowell
Case #: B265879
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 08/26/2016

In granting Proposition 47 relief, trial court may resentence defendant to an overall prison term that is the same length as his previous, plea-bargained sentence. In 2012, defendant entered a no contest plea to six counts of felony burglary (Pen. Code, § 459), admitted an on-bail enhancement (Pen. Code, § 12022.1) and a strike prior (Pen. Code, § 667, subd. (b)-(i)). As part of the plea, the court sentenced him to 10 years in prison. In January 2015 defendant petitioned to reduce his burglaries to misdemeanor shoplifting (Pen. Code, § 459.5). The petition was granted as to several of his burglaries in the plea case. At resentencing defendant requested a lower overall sentence. The trial court found the 10-year sentence was warranted by the terms of the plea as well as defendant’s criminal history. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. In November 2014, Proposition 47 reduced certain crimes to misdemeanors and created a mechanism whereby certain defendants could petition for reduction of a qualified offense (Pen. Code, § 1170.18). Although Proposition 47 prohibits the court from imposing a longer overall sentence upon resentencing (Pen. Code, § 1170.18, subd. (e)), the Court of Appeal here concluded that a trial court is not automatically required to reduce the sentence to reflect the lesser sentences imposed for misdemeanors. When the offense that was originally selected as the principal term is reduced to a misdemeanor, the court must select the next most serious conviction to compute a new principal term and may reconsider all the charges against a defendant. The new sentence may be either equal to or less than the original term.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing the same overall term when it resentenced defendant. Defendant claimed the trial court abused its discretion by imposing the upper term on the new principal count which it had selected, based on its reliance on the original plea agreement. “Because the record shows that the trial court relied on the seriousness of McDowell’s criminal history and otherwise complied with section 1170.18 when it reassessed McDowell’s sentence, the court’s reference to the earlier plea bargain was of no significance.”

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