California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
from orders of the Superior Court of San Diego County Nos.
CR143205, SCD120970, SCD153778, Jay M. Bloom, Judge. Affirmed
and remanded, with directions.
S. Bitar, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for
Defendant and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney
General, Arlene A. Sevidal, Randall D. Einhorn and James M.
Toohey, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and
HALLER, ACTING P. J.
Leola Allen pleaded guilty to committing felony welfare fraud
in 1993, 1997, and 2000 (and to committing felony perjury in
2000). At sentencing in each case, the trial court ordered
Allen to pay direct victim restitution and various fines and
fees. In 2018, Allen filed petitions under Penal Code
sections 1203.4 and 1203.42 seeking discretionary
"expungement" of her convictions on the basis she
had been rehabilitated. She also sought to stay, dismiss,
or delete her court-ordered fines and fees because she
asserted she was unable to pay them. The prosecution opposed
the expungement requests because Allen still owed about $9,
000 in direct victim restitution; the prosecution did not
oppose the request for relief from the fines and fees. The
trial court denied Allen's petitions based on her
outstanding victim restitution obligations, but did not
directly address her request for relief from the fines and
appeal, Allen argues that under the recent decision in
People v. Dueñas (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1157
(Dueñas), the trial court's denial of her
expungement petitions on the basis of her outstanding victim
restitution obligations violated her due process or equal
protection rights because she was financially unable to pay
the victim restitution. As we will explain, this argument
lacks merit for two reasons. First, Dueñas is
materially distinguishable-it involved revenue-generating
assessments and a punitive restitution fine, whereas this
case involves voter-mandated direct victim restitution
intended to make the victim whole. Second, we agree with the
analysis of numerous courts that have rejected
Dueñas's due process framework.
Allen contends the trial court erroneously concluded that her
outstanding victim restitution obligations deprived the court
of the authority to grant discretionary expungement. The
record does not support this contention.
remand, however, we direct the trial court to conduct further
proceedings in two respects. First, because the trial court
did not directly address Allen's request for relief from
the court-ordered fines and fees (other than victim
restitution), we will direct the trial court to do so.
Second, because the record is unclear regarding whether Allen
paid all the victim restitution owed in connection with her
convictions in 2000, we will direct the trial court to make
this factual determination and, if the court determines she
has paid it all, to reconsider her expungement petition in
light of that fact.
other respects, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
1993, Allen pleaded guilty in case No. CR143205 (the 1993
Case) to one felony count of failing to report income to the
Department of Social Services (Department) resulting in her
receipt of more than $400 in unentitled benefits (hereafter,
welfare fraud). (Welf. & Inst. Code, former § 10980,
subd. (c)(2).) The trial court placed Allen on
probation for five years, ordered her to pay victim
restitution of $10, 994, and imposed a restitution fine of
$200. Allen's probation expired in 2000.
1997, Allen pleaded guilty in case No. SCD120970 (the 1997
Case) to one felony count of welfare fraud. (Welf. &
Inst. Code, former § 10980, subd. (c)(2).) The trial
court placed Allen on probation for five years, ordered her
to pay victim restitution (the appellate record does not
indicate the amount), and imposed various fines and fees
(including a $200 restitution fine, $507 for court-appointed
attorney fees, and unspecified investigatory and
2000, Allen pleaded guilty in case No. SCD153778 (the 2000
Case) to one felony count of welfare fraud (Welf. & Inst.
Code, former § 10980, subd. (c)(2)), and one felony
count of perjury (§ 118, subd. (a)). The trial court
sentenced Allen to three years in prison, ordered her to pay
victim restitution of $2, 821, and imposed a restitution fine
result of her convictions in the 2000 Case, the trial court
revoked Allen's probation in the 1997 Case and sentenced
her to two years in prison.
Petitions to Expunge Her Convictions
September 2018, Allen filed separate (but substantially
similar) petitions in the 1993, 1997, and 2000 Cases seeking
to expunge her convictions and to "permanently stay,
dismiss, and/or delete" the court-ordered fines and fees
(but not the victim restitution, which she acknowledged would
survive expungement). Allen invoked the court's
discretionary authority under sections 1203.4 (as to her
conviction in the 1993 Case) and 1203.42 (as to her
convictions in the 1997 and 2000 Cases) to further "the
interest of justice."
supporting declaration, Allen stated she had remained sober
and law-abiding for the past 17 years; obtained employment
until her "100%... SSI Disability assessment"
prevented her from working further; pursued a GED and
enrolled in a community college course; and regularly
attended church. She stated in her declaration that she was
seeking expungement, in part, because one of her sons is
serving a life sentence in prison, and when she "tried
to visit him, [she] was denied entry because of [her] three
prior felony convictions. Obtaining the requested
post-conviction relief will allow [her] to visit [her]
acknowledged she had several outstanding court-ordered
financial obligations: (1) in the 1993 Case, victim
restitution of $4, 374; (2) in the 1997 Case, victim
restitution of $4, 626.64, attorney fees of $507, supervision
costs of $167, and fines totaling $408; and (3) in the 2000
Case, no victim restitution, but fines in the amount of $400.
Allen asserted she was unable to fulfill these obligations
because she is 59 years old, is "100% disabled owing to
mental illness," lives "in Section 8 Housing,"
and subsists entirely on "SSI Disability"
assistance of $910.72 per month.
prosecution opposed Allen's requests that her convictions
be expunged, arguing her outstanding victim restitution
obligations precluded expungement as a matter of right or as
a matter of discretion in the interests of
justice. The prosecution did not oppose
Allen's request to stay, dismiss, or delete the
court-ordered fines and fees other than victim restitution.
Hearing and Ruling
outset of the hearing on Allen's petitions, the trial
court indicated it "wasn't inclined to grant"
them "because she owes victim restitution," which
"is a little different." Defense counsel responded
that even if the convictions were expunged, the victim
restitution obligations would still be enforceable as civil
judgments. He further argued Allen was "being
discriminated against because she can't pay." The
court responded: "Well, I respectfully disagree, because
every defendant could avoid restitution and ask for a civil
judgment.· I know you can get one, but there's
still an issue ...