People V Chandlee - Setting Aside a Record in CA and Behavior in the First Year

People v. Chandlee
California Appellate Court, Los Angeles County
January 8, 1979

Holding: When considering the set aside of a misdemeanor conviction pursuant California Penal Code section 1203.4a, the court will look to whether the misdemeanant has been a law abiding citizen for one year after his misdemeanor conviction.

Why This Case is Important: It is important to note the differences between California Penal Code section 1203.4 and section 1203.4a. Section 1203.4 allows a defendant to set aside a misdemeanor or felony conviction, so long as he has not been sentenced to prison and has been placed on probation. A court must grant the defendant his requested relief under section 1203.4 if he has completed the terms of his probation.

The primary function of section 1203.4a is to allow defendants to set aside misdemeanor convictions only. Section 1203.4a is not available to those placed on probation. Furthermore, there is a mandatory one year law-abiding requirement placed on those who wish to petition for section 1203.4a relief. If a defendant commits another crime within one year of his misdemeanor conviction, then he will no longer be eligible to set aside his conviction under section 1203.4a. However, if a defendant meets the requirements of the statute and remains a law-abiding citizen for at least one year after his misdemeanor conviction, then the court must grant the defendant his relief.

Facts of This Case: In June of 1967, the defendant in this case was convicted of a misdemeanor, and probation was not granted. In September of 1973, the defendant was again convicted, and the court subsequently imposed upon the defendant a probationary sentence. After successful completion of his probation, the defendant petitioned for section 1203.4 relief to set aside his 1973 conviction; the court granted his petition. The defendant then subsequently petitioned to set aside his misdemeanor 1967 conviction pursuant to section 1203.4a. The trial court again granted the relief, and the District Attorney appealed the decision.

The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the court below. The District Attorney argued that the language of 1203.4a required that the defendant remain a law-abiding citizen for an indefinite amount of time. The court of appeals held that the District Attorney’s interpretation was wrong. Instead, the court of appeals determined that the intent of the legislature was to have defendants remain as law-abiding citizens for at least one year from when they are convicted.

The court of appeals thereby affirmed the decision of the trial court, and ordered the defendant’s 1203.4a petition be granted.

Key Language: It seems to us that the language “and has, since such pronouncement of judgment, lived an honest and upright life and has conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land” must be read as relating to one year from the date of pronouncement of judgment. Reading the quoted language similarly comports with an evident intention to secure law compliance from a misdemeanant not placed on probation, but instead sentenced outright who stays out of trouble with the law for one year after his misdemeanor conviction.

Expert Advise: “There is a significant difference between section 1203.4 and section 1203.4a. It is important for defense counsel to know these differences in order to successfully petition for relief.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee

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