I hate to seem like a broken record here, but Prop 47 caused a huge amount of legal entanglements and complications. The strange and sometimes illogical rulings are just too interesting to pass up. I promise that I’ll try to keep this one brief.
This post I’ll be talking about a recent case Harris v. Superior Court (2015). This case concerns plea bargains and how they work with prop 47. Before prop 47 passed, the defendant was accused of felony robbery and felony grand theft. Of the two charges robbery is much more serious as it is a violent crime and counts as a “strike”. Facing a lengthy prison term, the defendant agreed to plead guilty to grand theft from a person (§ 487, subd. (c)), as long as the robbery charge was dropped. The district attorney agreed to the deal. The sentence would keep Harris in prison until at least October 7, 2017, a little over four years.
A year and a half after his conviction, CA voters passed Prop 47 into law. Prop 47 was intended to reclassify charges such as the defendant’s grand theft charge as petty theft. It also allowed many people previously convicted of grand theft under $950 to petition the court for resentencing. Prop 47 was intended to reduce prison overcrowding
The defendant requested resentencing to reduce his grand theft conviction to a misdemeanor. The district attorney, (representing The People,) argued that resentencing would violate the agreed upon plea bargain. Of course the court couldn’t deny the request for a lighter sentence. So the DA requested to withdraw the original plea bargain. The court agreed. Taking the gamble Harris chose to follow through with his request. Harris then immediately requested a writ of mandate, that is, a review of the decision to allow the DA to withdraw the plea. The court denied the writ. Harris now faces felony robbery charges. If he is found guilty, we will have a situation where Prop 47 lead to increased prison time. Somehow I doubt the voters who passed the law envisioned this situation.