In People v. Stamps, the Supreme Court today holds that, even though they were sentenced under a plea agreement, a defendant may invoke on appeal a new statute allowing superior courts to strike serious felony enhancements.
But it’s a be-careful-what-you-ask-for strategy, because the defendant could lose his plea deal. The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan concludes that, on remand, if the defendant asks the superior court to strike the enhancement and that court indicates a willingness to do so, the prosecution can withdraw from the plea agreement or the superior court can withdraw its prior approval of the deal.
Usually, a defendant cannot appeal after pleading guilty, but the court says that the appeal was justified in this case: the defendant’s “appellate claim does not constitute an attack on the validity of his plea because the claim does not challenge his plea as defective when made.”
The court reverses the First District, Division Four, Court of Appeal, but only because the appellate court seemed to give the superior court the option of striking the enhancement without allowing the prosecution to void the plea agreement.
The court disapproves a 2019 Second District, Division Three, opinion that is a grant-and-hold for Stamps. It’s unclear why the court doesn’t also disapprove People v. Kelly, another Stamps grant-and-hold, in which the Second District, Division Six, dismissed the defendant’s appeal after a negotiated sentence.