Example of Conviction Reversal in California
In People v. Collins (1978) 21 Cal.3d 208, the defendant was charged with 15 felonies, and pursuant to a plea agreement, pleaded guilty to one of them in return for dismissal of the other 14.
While criminal proceedings were suspended and the defendant was hospitalized as a mentally disordered sex offender, the Legislature amended the statute defining the crime supporting his conviction. Under the amended statute, the conduct he admitted was no longer criminal.
The court reversed the judgment of conviction, but authorized the prosecution to reinstate the dismissed counts with the proviso that the defendant could not be sentenced to a longer term than the one provided for the crime he admitted at the time he entered his guilty plea.
Collins held that "when either the prosecution or the defendant is deprived of benefits for which it has bargained, corresponding relief will lie from concessions made. . . . . . . The state, in entering a plea bargain, generally contemplates a certain ultimate result; integral to its bargain is the defendant's vulnerability to a term of punishment. . . . . . . The intervening act of the Legislature in decriminalizing the conduct for which the defendant was convicted . . . destroys a fundamental assumption underlying the plea bargain-that defendant would be vulnerable to a term of imprisonment. The state may therefore seek to reestablish defendant's vulnerability by reviving the counts dismissed." (Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at pp. 214-215.)
The court's disposition "substantially restores the agreement previously negotiated. It permits the defendant to realize the benefits he derived from the plea bargaining agreement, while the People also receive approximately that for which they bargained." (Id. at p. 217.)
In re Blessing (1982) 129 Cal.App.3d 1026 followed Collins and reached a similar result.
In Blessing, the parties entered into a plea agreement that provided for a sentence of 16 1/3 years in exchange for dismissal of additional charges, and imposition of a concurrent sentence in another case. Thereafter, our Supreme Court invalidated an enhancement that applied to most of the offenses the defendant admitted. "'". . . In computing one's sentence under a plea bargain, even though agreed by the parties, the court may not give effect to an enhancement unauthorized by law." . . . '" (Blessing, supra, 129 Cal.App.3d at p. 1030.)
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision, the defendant could be sentenced to a term of only 12 1/3 years, not the agreed upon 16 1/3. This change in the law "drastically and fundamentally altered the character of the negotiated disposition. Thus, the People are entitled to withdraw therefrom and have the dismissed counts revived, if they so desire. (People v. Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 215.)" (Id. at p. 1031.)
But "in no event may any resentencing proceeding result in an aggregate term of imprisonment in excess of the 16 1/3 years contemplated by the negotiated disposition and initially imposed by the sentencing court." (Ibid.)