People v. Chavez

Filed 4/26/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA THE PEOPLE, ) ) Plaintiff and Respondent, ) ) S238929 v. ) ) Ct.App. 3 C074138 LORENZO CHAVEZ, ) ) Yolo County Defendant and Appellant. ) Super. Ct. No. CRF042140 ____________________________________) A trial court has broad power to dismiss an action against a criminal defendant in “furtherance of justice” under Penal Code section 1385.1 (§ 1385, subd. (a) [“The judge or magistrate may . . . in furtherance of justice, order an action to be dismissed.”].) A somewhat different kind of relief is available under section 1203.4, which permits eligible defendants to obtain dismissal of accusations after completing probation. (§ 1203.4, subd. (a) [providing in relevant part that an eligible defendant “shall, at any time after the termination of the period of probation . . . be permitted by the court to withdraw his or her plea of guilty or plea of nolo contendere . . . [and] the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusations or information against the defendant”].) After pleading no contest to criminal charges in 2005 and completing probation, appellant Lorenzo Chavez now seeks dismissal of his convictions under Penal Code section 1385, but not under section 1203.4. To justify his request for dismissal under section 1385, 1 All further undesignated statutory references are to the Penal Code. 1 Chavez claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel and was therefore unaware of the immigration consequences of the plea he entered eight years earlier. He asks the court, in the interests of justice, to remedy this wrong and expunge his record. Under section 1385, Chavez can make this request at any time before the trial court places him on probation following imposition of a suspended sentence. In this case, however, Chavez’s term of probation had expired before he invited the court to provide relief. So we must resolve whether section 1385 confers authority on a trial court to dismiss an action after probation is completed, and whether the authority conferred by section 1385 is circumscribed by section 1203.4. What we hold is that a trial court exceeds the authority conferred by section 1385 when it dismisses an action after the probation period expires. Under well- established case law, a court may exercise its dismissal power under section 1385 at any time before judgment is pronounced — but not after judgment is final. (People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, 524, fn. 11 (Romero).) Yet in the case of a successful probationer, final judgment is never pronounced, and after the expiration of probation, may never be pronounced. To address this situation, we extend Romero by concluding that section 1385’s power may be exercised until judgment is pronounced or when the power to pronounce judgment runs out. Because the trial court’s authority to render judgment ends with the expiration of probation, the court has no power to dismiss under section 1385 once probation is complete. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal, but on a different rationale. ...

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