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People V Smith - How Changes Made to California Penal Code § 1203.4 Affect Court Decisions

People v. Smith
Court of Appeals of California, First District, Division One
June 30, 2014

Holding: The court will consider changes that the legislature has made to Penal Code section 1203.4 when determining if he is eligible to have his conviction dismissed.

Why This Case is Important:It is important to note that Penal Code Section 1203.4 is subject to changes made by the legislature. Depending on the charge, such changes made to the statute will effect the defendant’s ability to seek relief. It is critical to track legislative amendments made to the statute in order to determine whether the court can even grant relief.

This case is also important in establishing the effect of the 1997 and 2000 amendments to section 1203.4, which precluded the dismissal of sexual offense convictions under sections 286(c), 288, 288a(c), 288.5, 289 and felony convictions under section 261.5(d). It is crucial to note that sexual offense convictions that do not fall under the category above are still eligible for section 1203.4 relief, in which case the court must follow the statute’s mandated guidelines for granting a defendant’s petition.

Facts of This Case: In 1995, the appellant in this case plead guilty to violating sections 288(c), 288a(b)(2), 289(i) and 261.5(d). Appellant received a suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation for four years. The appellant successfully completed his probation without any violations and moved the court to dismiss his convictions under Section 1203.4. However, the trial court entirely denied appellant’s motion.

The court of appeals determined that the trial court was wrong to deny appellants motion to dismiss his convictions under sections 288a, subdivision (b)(2) and 289, subdivision (i). The court of appeals held that amendments made to section 1203.4 in 1997 and 2000, excluding certain sexual offenses from being dismissed, did not apply to 288a(b)(2) and 289(i). Because the appellant had successfully completed his probation, the court of appeals concluded that the appellant’s motion should have been granted in respect to the convictions eligible under section 1203.4.

In so holding, the court of appeals established that defendants will be subject to subsequent legislative amendments to section 1203.4, which could serve to disqualify certain convictions, as it did so disqualify the appellant from seeking dismissal of his section 288(c) and 261.5(d) convictions here.

Key Language: “A probationer’s entitlement to relief under statute allowing for dismissal of convictions upon successful completion of probation is not frozen at the time fo the probationary grant but is subject to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute.”

Expert Advise:“This case is useful because it establishes that changes made to section 1203.4 in 1997 and 2000 do not prevent all defendants who have been convicted of sexual offenses from 1203.4 relief. Many courts and prosecutors mistakenly interpret the amendments to section 1203.4 to include every single sexual offense. This appellate decision provides the guidelines as to whether a sexual offense conviction is or is not eligible for dismissal.” -Attorney Paul Hecht.

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

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