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Name: People v. Zuniga
Case #: E057444
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 04/28/2014

Appeal dismissed where defendant challenged the factual basis for his plea without first obtaining a certificate of probable cause (CPC). Zuniga pled no contest to participating in a criminal street gang (Pen. Code, § 186.22, subd. (a)); a drug charge was dismissed. The prosecution and defense stipulated that there was a factual basis for the plea. Although Zuniga filed a notice of appeal, he did not obtain a CPC. On appeal, he relied on People v. Rodriguez, which was decided after he was sentenced, to argue that his conviction was void because he acted alone, so legally there was no factual basis for his plea (see People v. Rodriguez (2012) 55 Cal.4th 1125 [section 186.22, subd. (a) is aider/abettor statute and may not be violated by one who acts alone]). The Attorney General filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, arguing that a CPC was required to raise the claim. Held: Appeal dismissed. Generally, a defendant may not appeal from a conviction based on a guilty or no contest plea unless he or she first obtains a CPC. (Pen. Code, § 1237.5.) While there is an exception to this requirement for sentencing issues that arose after the plea was entered, a CPC must be obtained in cases that are, in substance, challenges to the validity of a guilty plea. (Disagreeing with People v. Lorna (1984) 159 Cal.App.3d 992.) Although Zuniga’s argument was couched in terms of raising a legal issue attacking only the judgment, it was in substance a dispute concerning the factual basis for his plea and challenged the validity of the plea itself. As such, a CPC was required. Moreover, Zuniga’s no contest plea admitted all matters essential to the conviction and waived any right to contest the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal. [Editor’s Note: In a footnote, the court explained that, in contrast to a sufficiency of the evidence claim, a contention that the trial court failed to make a sufficient inquiry into the factual basis of a plea is cognizable on appeal because it challenges the legality of the plea. (See Pen. Code, §§ 1192.5; 1237.5, subd. (a).)]