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The People v. John Melvin Stiehl

August 22, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLANT,
v.
JOHN MELVIN STIEHL, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Placer County, Garrett W. Olney, Judge. (Retired Judge of Plumas Sup. Court, assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) (Super. Ct. No. 62099044)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robie , Acting P.J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Reversed with directions.

After the magistrate held defendant John Melvin Stiehl to answer on a charge of receiving stolen property, the Placer County District Attorney's Office took an information to the court to be filed. The court clerk stamped the information "received," but not "filed," and placed it in the file for one of defendant's other cases. This mistake was discovered after the statutorily mandated time for filing an information had passed, and the trial court granted defendant's subsequent motion to dismiss on the ground the information was not timely filed.

On appeal, the People contend the trial court erred in granting the motion to dismiss because the prosecutor's office timely filed the information by delivering it to the court clerk. The People also argue that even if the information was not timely filed, good cause existed for the trial court to decline to dismiss the information. We do not reach the People's second argument, because, agreeing with their first, we reverse the decision of the trial court. As we will explain, the information was "filed" when it was delivered to the court clerk for filing, even though the clerk failed to process the document correctly.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts of the underlying offense are not relevant to this appeal.

On July 14, 2010, the magistrate held defendant to answer on a charge of receiving stolen property. The prosecutor chose not to have the complaint deemed an information. Two days later, on July 16, a secretary from the prosecutor's office walked the information to the court. The court clerk stamped the information "received," but not "filed," and apparently placed it in one of defendant's other pending case files. On July 26, defendant failed to appear for his arraignment in this case.

On August 18, at a hearing on several of defendant's pending cases, the mistaken processing of the information in this case was discovered. The court allowed the information to be filed over defendant's objection, well after the statutorily set 15 days in which an information must be filed following a magistrate's holding order. (See Pen. Code, § 1382, subd. (a)(1).)

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the information was not timely filed because it was filed 36 calendar days after defendant was held to answer. In opposition, the prosecutor argued there was good cause to decline to dismiss the case because of the error in misfiling or because defendant was a fugitive from justice and if he had appeared for his arraignment on July 26, the error would have been discovered and corrected then, within the statutory deadline. The prosecutor did not argue (either in writing or at the hearing on the motion) that the clerk's receipt of the information was the equivalent of the information being filed. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, finding the court clerk's clerical error and defendant's failure to appear on July 26 did not constitute good cause to decline to dismiss the case.

DISCUSSION

The People contend the trial court's dismissal of the case was reversible error. They argue the information should have been deemed "filed" as of the date it was presented to the court clerk, thereby making its filing on July 16 timely. In the alternative, the People argue the trial court had good cause to decline to dismiss the information, and the trial court's ruling could be reversed on that basis as well.

In response, defendant contends the People forfeited their argument that the information should be deemed "filed" by not addressing it in the written opposition to the motion to dismiss or at the hearing on the motion. Specifically, defendant contends the prosecution did not develop the factual basis to support this new legal theory on appeal. Defendant argues that even if the People are allowed to raise this new theory on appeal, the People do not offer authority that suggests the information should have been deemed "filed." Defendant also contends the trial court did not have good cause to decline to dismiss the case.

We do not reach the question of whether the trial court had good cause to decline to dismiss the case. Instead, we agree with the People that the information should have been deemed "filed" upon its ...


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