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Name: People v. Mendoza
Case #: E059613
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 10/26/2015

The procedure whereby a defendant sentenced to state prison may request sentencing in absentia in a probation case (Pen. Code, § 1203.2a) also applies to defendants sentenced to “county prison.” Mendoza was convicted of drug offenses in Riverside County and granted probation. Two years later, while she remained on probation for the Riverside offense, Mendoza was convicted of a felony in San Bernardino and sentenced to 16 months, to be served in the county jail. She filed a petition in Riverside to terminate her probation and sentence her in absentia. (Pen. Code, § 1203.2a.) The trial court did not act on her request. Months later, Mendoza moved to terminate her probation based on the court’s inaction. The trial court found her request defective because it lacked the warden’s attestation. Mendoza withdrew her claim and admitted violating probation. The trial court reinstated probation and Mendoza appealed, for the first time challenging the trial court’s jurisdiction to reinstate probation. Held: Reversed. Section 1203.2a allows probationers who are convicted and sentenced to prison in another case to file a request for sentencing in absentia in the probation case. This procedure affords defendants the possibility of receiving concurrent time on the probation case. If the trial court fails to act in a timely manner, it loses jurisdiction to impose sentence on the probation case. Although section 1203.2a specifically applies to defendants released on probation in one county, who are then sentenced to “prison in this state or another state” in another county, it applies equally to defendants sentenced to “county prison” pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h). This interpretation effectuates the purpose of section 1203.2a and accords equal protection of the law. Because Mendoza made a valid request for sentencing in absentia, and the trial court failed to act on it, her motion for termination of probation should have been granted.

Errors in the formal execution of the petition for sentencing under section 1203.2a do not preclude a trial court from sentencing the defendant. The prosecution argued that Mendoza’s petition for sentencing lacked the statutorily required warden’s attestation and contained other errors, and therefore had to be denied. However, cases discussing the need for strict compliance with section 1203.2a’s provisions are concerned with ensuring the defendant actually waived her constitutional rights to personal presence and to counsel at the proceedings. Attestation is the responsibility of the warden or other authorized representative, not the defendant, and is not a condition prerequisite to a valid demand for sentencing. Mendoza’s substantial compliance with the statutory requirements was sufficient.