Thursday, May 7, 2015
Prop. 47 Applies to Plea Bargains, Court of Appeal Rules
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The resentencing provisions of Proposition 47, which reduces a number of felonies to misdemeanors and applies retroactively to some offenders, apply without regard to whether the original conviction was by trial or plea, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled.
Div. One yesterday certified for publication its April 21 ruling, in which it remanded a juvenile case to the Contra Costa Superior Court to reconsider whether the petitioner, who has been detained for more than two years for an offense that is now a misdemeanor, should be released.
The juvenile, identified as T.W., was made a ward of the court in July 2010. He was charged by supplemental petition in July 2013 in Alameda Superior Court with felony offenses of robbery and receiving stolen property, based on his allegedly robbing a woman of her purse and being found in possession of stolen ATM card and phone.
According to court records, T.W. admitted receiving stolen property, while the robbery charge was dismissed. The case was then transferred to his home county of Contra Costa for disposition.
The maximum custodial term was set at 40 months.
In November 2014, following voter approval of Proposition 47, the juvenile filed a petition for modification, asking that the maximum term of confinement be reduced to time served on the ground that the stolen property he admitted receiving had a value of less than $950, so his offense was a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 and carried a maximum confinement term of 12 months.
The prosecution responded that resentencing should be denied on the ground that it would pose a risk to public safety, as provided in Proposition 47. It also argued that as a “retroactive sentencing provision,” the limited right to resentencing should not apply at all to negotiated dispositions.
The Contra Costa Superior Court judge agreed with the prosecutor that T.W. could not qualify for resentencing if he plea-bargained for the misdemeanor disposition, but suggested it was unclear from the Alameda County documentation whether that was what occurred. He transferred the case to the Alameda court.
That court sent the case back with no action. The defense then argued again that T.W should be resentenced, while the prosecution argued that the disputed paperwork from Alameda County clearly demonstrated that the disposition was negotiated.
Judge Thomas M. Maddock denied the petition, reasoning that there was “sufficient indicia of a plea bargain” to hold that the juvenile was not entitled to resentencing.
On the juvenile’s writ petition to the Court of Appeal, however, Justice Sandra Margulies said it was irrelevant whether there was a plea bargain because Proposition 47 would apply in any event. The “plain and unambiguous language” of the initiative, the justice said, and the intent of its authors as set forth in the ballot materials, require that a person convicted of an offense listed in the measure—grand theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks, and check forgery, where the amount involved is less than $950, or simple drug possession—be resentenced absent a prior serious or violent felony conviction or a finding that the offender is likely to commit such a crime in the future.
The trial judge was ordered to hold a hearing “as soon as possible” to determine whether to reduce T.W.’s term of confinement.
The case is T.W. v. Superior Court (People), A144528.
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