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Name: People v. Woods
Case #: D070477
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/16/2017

After accepting a plea agreement, trial court erred by imposing a sentence that was not within the bounds of the agreement instead of withdrawing its approval of the plea bargain. Woods, who had been on probation in two other cases, pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and admitted a strike prior. Pursuant to her plea deal, she was to receive concurrent sentences of 16 months for the attempted burglary and seven years on each of her probation cases. The court accepted the plea. But when the parties could not agree on custody credits, the court imposed the 16-month sentence on the burglary offense and “terminated” probation in the probation cases, reasoning the seven-year terms had been “just about eaten up by credits.” The People appealed, arguing the sentence did not conform to the plea bargain. Held: Reversed. “Although a plea agreement does not divest the court of its inherent sentencing discretion, ‘a judge who has accepted a plea bargain is bound to impose a sentence within the limits of that bargain.'” (People v. Segura (2008) 44 Cal.4th 921, 931.) If the court withdraws approval of its plea, it cannot proceed to apply and enforce certain parts of the plea bargain while ignoring others, but must restore the parties to the status quo ante. Here, the trial court clearly departed from the plea bargain by “terminating” probation in the probation cases instead of imposing the stipulated seven-year concurrent sentences. This departure was unjustified absent a proper determination that defendant had earned seven years of custody credits. There was no such determination here, as the court failed to formally calculate and record the credits. (Woods had not actually earned seven years of custody credits.) By sentencing Woods to less than seven years in the probation cases, the court deprived the People of the benefit of the plea bargain. While the trial court retained its discretionary authority to sentence Woods differently than the parties agreed, the court was required to withdraw its approval of the plea bargain in its entirety. Reversal was therefore required.

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