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Name: Wheeler v. Appellate Division of Superior Court
Case #: S272850
Court: CA Supreme Court
Opinion Date: 05/30/2024
Summary

A trial court may consider a defendant’s reduced culpability in dismissing charges “in furtherance of justice” pursuant to PC 1385. The trial court dismissed the action against Wheeler, age 85, who had been charged with strict liability misdemeanors after leasing a storefront to another person who illegally sold cannabis on the property without Wheeler’s knowledge. In determining whether to dismiss a charge “in furtherance of justice” pursuant to PC 1385, a trial court may consider evidence indicative guilt or innocence and the nature of a defendant’s criminal activity. This includes a defendant’s reduced level of culpability within the statutory criminal scheme, despite indications of guilt. Here, where the municipal ordinances also provided noncriminal citations for the least culpable violators, the trial court had discretion to consider whether Wheeler’s lack of knowledge showed reduced culpability, regardless of whether the charges had a mens rea requirement.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S272850.PDF