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Name: People v. Superior Court (Jalalipour)
Case #: G049679
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 01/07/2015
Summary

Trial court erred by reducing wobbler offense to misdemeanor after preliminary hearing but before plea and sentencing. Jalalipour was charged with multiple crimes, including felony tax evasion, for underreporting sales tax collected from his restaurants. After the preliminary hearing, Jalalipour moved to reduce the charged crimes to misdemeanors pursuant to Penal Code section 17, subdivision (b). At a hearing on his motion, Jalalipour stated that his intent was to plead guilty to the reduced charge. The court granted the motion over the prosecutor’s objection. Jalalipour entered guilty pleas to the misdemeanor counts and received probation. The prosecutor petitioned for a writ of mandate. Held: Petition granted. Section 17, subdivision (b) authorizes a court to declare a “wobbler” offense to be a misdemeanor in certain circumstances. A magistrate may determine that an offense is a misdemeanor at or before the preliminary hearing. (Pen. Code, § 17, subd. (b)(5).) After the preliminary hearing, a court may declare an offense is a misdemeanor “at the time of granting probation.” (Pen. Code, § 17, subd. (b)(3).) A wobbler offense will also be deemed a misdemeanor after a judgment imposing a punishment other than imprisonment in the state prison or in a county jail pursuant to Penal Code section 1170, subdivision (h). (Pen. Code, § 17, subd. (b)(1).) Here, the clear language of section 17, subdivision (b), did not authorize the trial court to reduce Jalalipour’s felony charges to misdemeanors over the prosecution’s objection before he pled or was found guilty of the charged felonies. “[U]nless the People consent to a reduction of the charged offense, the establishment of the defendant’s guilt, whether by plea or trial, must precede a court’s reduction of a wobbler to a misdemeanor under Penal Code section 17, subdivision (b)(3).”