California Court of Appeals, Third District, Sutter
from judgments of the Superior Court of Sutter County, Nos.
CRF121961, CRF122695, CRF140755 Perry Parker, Judge in
CRF121961 and CRF140755, and Susan E. Green, Judge in
Elizabeth Campbell and Michael Allen, under appointment by
the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Senior Assistant
Attorney General, Eric L. Christoffersen and Catherine
Chatman, Supervising Deputy Attorneys General, Jesse Witt and
Michael Dolida, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and
opinion addresses a trial court's authority to vacate
dismissal of a criminal action as part of a plea bargain.
Pursuant to a stipulation by the parties made at its
suggestion, the trial court vacated its earlier dismissal of
an information against defendant Gary Grant Hampton, Jr., in
order to approve a plea agreement in this and other pending
actions. The court placed defendant on probation, but later,
it found he had violated probation and it sentenced him to
prison. On appeal, defendant contends the trial court lacked
jurisdiction to vacate its earlier dismissal and thus could
not accept his plea, place him on probation, or sentence him
to prison for violating probation.
reverse. No California authority vests a trial court with
jurisdiction to vacate the dismissal of a criminal case upon
the stipulation of the parties seeking to adopt a plea
agreement. Under California jurisdiction law, a court loses
subject matter jurisdiction upon dismissing a criminal case
in its entirety, and these rules prevent a court from later
vacating such a dismissal, even when the vacation was sought
by stipulation of the parties.
and Legal Proceedings
People by information, charged defendant with battery,
criminal threats, assault, spousal battery, false
imprisonment, car theft, obstructing use of a cell phone to
summon assistance, and five felony priors. Later, the People
amended the information to allege defendant had been
convicted of a serious felony for purposes of the Three
Strikes law. Also, in two separate actions, the People
claimed that defendant's crimes violated his probation.
People later moved to dismiss the main case and file new
charges, and to proceed to trial on the probation violations
the following day. The trial court granted the motion and
dismissed the main case. The court itself gave no reason for
the dismissal. The minute order notes the case was dismissed
in the interest of justice. Upon dismissing the action, the
court ordered defendant to be discharged from custody for
purposes of the main case only.
following day, during the afternoon of trial on the probation
violations, the court announced that counsel had met with it
in chambers and advised it of a possible resolution in the
probation cases. The resolution involved
“reactivating” the main case. After reconfirming
with counsel, the court stated: “To the extent that I
dismissed this matter... I am setting aside that dismissal
and that file will become operative for all purposes and do
counsel agree to that?” After counsel agreed, the court
ruled, “The dismissal of that case is vacated.”
after vacating the dismissal, the court stated that the
prosecutor “has filed a Second Amended Information
which absent any objection I am going to have the clerk
file.” Defense counsel had no objection. She also
waived formal arraignment and advisement of rights. The
second amended information, filed with the same case number
as the previously dismissed main case, omitted the serious
felony strike allegation which the first amended information
contained. The court entered not-guilty pleas on behalf of
defendant to all the charges in the second amended
information and denials of the priors.
court next considered the plea bargain, which addressed all
the pending cases. Defendant pleaded no contest to spousal
abuse and car theft, and the prosecution dismissed all other
charges, including the two violation of probation actions.
Defendant was to receive credit for time served. The court
released him on his own recognizance and continued the matter
six months later, defendant moved to withdraw his plea and
dismiss the main case. He contended the court did not have
jurisdiction to enter his plea because it had no power at the
time to reinstate a dismissed count. He claimed that once the
court dismissed the main case, it had no jurisdiction, even
by stipulation, or inherent authority to vacate the dismissal
and allow the information to be amended.
opposition, the prosecutor submitted a declaration describing
what happened when the court vacated the dismissal of the
main action. After he, defense counsel, and the court met in
chambers over an issue in the violation of probation trial,
he, defense counsel, and defendant negotiated a settlement in
the courtroom. The prosecutor offered formal probation plus
time served on two felonies, ...