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The People v. Louis Lambert Martin

December 30, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
LOUIS LAMBERT MARTIN, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



San Bernardino County Super. Ct. No.FSB803105

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennard, J.

Ct.App. 4/2 E046579

Many criminal matters are resolved not by trial but by plea agreements between the prosecution and the defendant. Typically, a plea agreement allows the defendant to plead guilty to one or more charges in exchange for dismissal of one or more other charges.

Implicit in the plea agreement, which is in the nature of a contract, is the understanding that the trial court cannot use the facts of a dismissed charge to impose "adverse sentencing consequences" unless the defendant consents or a transactional relationship exists between the admitted charge and the dismissed charge. (People v. Harvey (1979) 25 Cal.3d 754, 758 (Harvey).) In Harvey, the trial court imposed an increased prison term based on the facts of a dismissed charge. At issue here is whether Harvey applies to the imposition of probation conditions based on the facts of a dismissed charge. The Court of Appeal construed Harvey as limited to the imposition of prison sentences. It expressly disagreed with the Court of Appeal in People v. Beagle (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 415 (Beagle), which construed Harvey as applying also to the imposition of probation conditions. We agree with the latter view.

I

In July 2008, defendant Louis Lambert Martin lived with his girlfriend in an apartment in San Bernardino. On July 27, police officers responded to a call of domestic violence at the apartment. When the officers arrived, defendant was gone. Defendant's girlfriend told the officers that defendant had punched her in the face and choked her; the officers noticed redness and swelling on her nose and cheek. She also told the officers of defendant's past violence against her, and she expressed fear of him. After the officers checked the surrounding area and were unable to find defendant, they left.

Later that same day, the officers returned in response to the girlfriend's call that defendant was back. Upon arrival, the officers saw defendant walk up a staircase towards the apartment. They ordered defendant to stop. When defendant failed to do so, the officers ran up the staircase after him. As defendant entered the apartment's front door, one of the officers put his foot in the door to keep it open. Defendant shut the door on the officer's foot and ankle, injuring him. Defendant then fled, pursued by the officers, who later found him in a carport trying to hide under a car. When the officers handcuffed defendant, he put up a fight.

Defendant was charged with the felony of resisting an officer by the use of force or violence (Pen. Code, § 69; all further statutory references are to the Penal Code) and the misdemeanor of corporal injury to a cohabitant (§ 273.5, subd. (a)). The prosecution and defendant negotiated a plea agreement. In exchange for dismissal of the misdemeanor offense, defendant agreed to plead guilty to the felony charge, for which he would be placed on probation, which was to include service of 120 days in county jail.

The plea bargain did not mention that defendant would be subject to probation conditions based on the facts of the dismissed domestic violence charge. But at a later hearing the trial court stated its intention to impose such probation conditions.*fn1 When defense counsel objected, the trial court responded that if defendant did not accept those conditions, the court would set aside the plea agreement. After conferring with counsel, defendant agreed to all the terms of probation.

On appeal, defendant argued that the imposition of domestic violence probation conditions was improper because the plea agreement did not include his consent to probation conditions flowing from the dismissed domestic violence charge. The Court of Appeal upheld the challenged conditions. It noted that Harvey involved an increased prison term and therefore did not apply to probation, which it characterized as an act of grace or clemency. It rejected the contrary conclusion of the Court of Appeal in Beagle, supra, 125 Cal.App.4th 415. To resolve the conflict, we granted defendant's petition for review.

II

As noted earlier, the charges against defendant were resolved not by trial but by a plea bargain. We begin with a brief description of the basic nature of plea agreements. A plea bargain is a negotiated agreement between the prosecution and the defendant by which a defendant pleads guilty to one or more charges in return for dismissal of one or more other charges. (People v. Segura (2008) 44 Cal.4th 921, 930 (Segura).) The agreement must then be submitted to the trial court for approval. The court must tell the defendant that the court's acceptance of the proposed plea is not binding, that the court "may, at the time set for the hearing on the application for probation or pronouncement of judgment, withdraw its approval," and that if the court does withdraw its approval the defendant may withdraw the plea. (§ 1192.5.) Thus, " '[j]udicial approval is an essential condition precedent to the effectiveness of the "bargain" worked out by the defense and prosecution.' " (Segura, supra, at p. 930.)

Because a negotiated plea agreement is in the nature of a contract, "it is interpreted according to general contract principles." (People v. Shelton (2006) 37 Cal.4th 759, 767.) The trial court's approval of the agreement binds the court to the terms of the plea bargain, and the defendant's sentence ...


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