Pretrial Hearing to Resolve Statutory Ambiguity In a Criminal Case

The Third Appellate District, in People v. Williamson (1982) 137 Cal. App. 3d 419 187 Cal. Rptr. 107, held that a defendant was entitled to a pretrial hearing to resolve a "statutory anomaly" causing an ambiguity in the class of disqualifying offenses. The district attorney had concluded the defendant was ineligible. Earlier, the Third Appellate District had held that a defendant was not entitled to pretrial review. (People v. Superior Court (Hayle) (1977) 74 Cal. App. 3d 604 141 Cal. Rptr. 496.) Williamson footnoted its disapproval of Hayle. (People v. Williamson, supra, 137 Cal. App. 3d at p. 944, fn. 4.) People v. Paz (1990) 217 Cal. App. 3d 1209 266 Cal. Rptr. 468, decided by the Sixth District Court of Appeal, agreed that a defendant is not entitled to judicial review prior to entry of judgment, yet cited Williamson for the proposition that "no hearing is necessary unless the determination of eligibility requires resolution of factual issues." (Id. at p. 1217.) The Third Appellate District revisited the issue in People v. Brackett (1994) 25 Cal. App. 4th 488 30 Cal. Rptr. 2d 557 and, as in its earlier Hayle opinion, once again held there is no right to judicial review prior to entry of judgment. It characterized Williamson as a case involving the "limited sweep" of a statutory anomaly (Brackett, at pp. 498-499) and criticized the Paz decision because it "confuses the task of the district attorney with the judicial function of the court." (Brackett, at p. 500.) Hayle was not mentioned.