People V Bradus - Probationary & Attorneys Fees Regarding Record Clearing

People v. Bradus
California Court of Appeals, Third District
May 30, 2007

Holding: A defendant who has not fully paid her attorney fees and probationary costs is still eligible for Penal Code section 1203.4 relief.

Why This Case is Important: Probation costs and attorney fees cannot be considered conditions of probation. As a result, they need not be satisfied in order for a defendant to seek relief under section 1203.4. This is based on the understanding of why relief is granted under section 1203.4 after a defendant has completed the terms of her probation.

Relief is granted in recognition that the defendant has been rehabilitated, and is therefore eligible to be granted status as a law-abiding member of society. A defendant will be entitled to relief if she completes the conditions of her probation. Probation costs and attorney fees do not relate to a defendant’s progress towards rehabilitation. And in any case, where a defendant is entitled to relief, the court has no discretion to weigh rehabilitation and must grant the requested relief.

In this case, the defendant was found to have completed the conditions of her probation, and was therefore entitled to relief. The court in this case found that probation costs were ancillary to probation, and that imposing attorney fees as a condition to probation would trigger constitutional concerns. Therefore because the defendant had completed the terms of her probation, she was entitled to relief, regardless of her nonpayment of attorney fees and probationary costs.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case pleaded guilty to possessing marijuana for sale and was placed on three years of formal probation. The defendant was required to pay a fine, probation costs and attorney fees. The defendant successfully completed her probation, paid off her fines, but still had outstanding attorney fees and probation costs. Nevertheless, the defendant petitioned the court for entitled relief under section 1203.4.

The trial court denied her request for relief on the grounds that the defendant had not fully paid her attorney fees and probation costs. The court of appeals reversed the decision of the trial court.

On appeal, the District Attorney argued that non-payment of the defendant’s attorney fees and probationary costs signified that the defendant was not rehabilitated. The court of appeals disagreed with the District Attorney’s reasoning. The court of appeals determined that probationary costs were a collateral matter to probation and were therefore not a condition of probation. The court also held that attorney fees were constituently forbidden from being considered a condition of probation. As a result, the court of appeals vacated the trial court’s order denying the defendant her relief, and entered a new order granting her petition.

Key Language: “Accordingly, we believe the legislature has evidenced a determination that the nonpayment of orders under such statutory recoupment provisions to reimburse a county for appointed attorney fees and probationary costs should not prohibit relief under subdivision (a) of section 1203.4”

Expert Advise: “Time and time again judges and prosecutors will deny a defendant’s requested relief for erroneous reasons. This case helps clarify the requirements of Penal Code section 1203.4 relief, and concretely establishes that the nonpayment of attorney fees and probation costs does not preclude a defendant’s requested relief. It provides a strong and concise response to any district attorney or judge who would deny relief on such basis.” - Attorney Mathew Higbee

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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