California Penal Code Section 1018 - Interpretation

Penal Code Section 1018 states in part: "Unless otherwise provided by law, every plea shall be entered or withdrawn by the defendant himself or herself in open court." In In re Brain (1924) 70 Cal.App. 334, a habeas corpus proceeding, the reviewing court concluded there was no valid judgment of conviction and remanded for further proceedings in view of the fact that petitioner himself did not plead guilty; rather, his attorney entered the plea, albeit in petitioner's presence and without objection (id. at pp. 335-336; see In re Breen (1958) 162 Cal.App.2d 235, 236). The California Supreme Court subsequently explained that "the purpose of the requirement that a plea be entered by defendant personally is to ensure that the plea is his own. If it is, the purpose of that requirement is accomplished . . . . Accordingly, in those cases the court should not have declared the judgment void without determining that the defendant had not authorized or adopted counsel's statement of his plea. If he had authorized or adopted counsel's statement of his plea, no purpose other than admonition was served by setting aside the judgment on habeas corpus." (In re Martinez (1959) 52 Cal.2d 808, 815.)