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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Victim Voice and Plea Agreements

January 10, 2018

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In a DUI case in California the victims’ rights to be present and heard were violated when they were not notified of an entry of plea and same day sentencing. After the court sentenced the defendant and issued the order transferring the defendant to the state department of corrections, the state filed a motion for reconsideration.  The mother of the victim who was injured on scene, representing herself, also requested that the trial court reconsider.  Based upon these arguments the trial court found that the victims’ rights were violated.  The court then withdrew its acceptance of the plea, vacated the guilty plea, recalled the sentence and reset the case for trial.  Defendant sought appellate review from the California Court of Appeals, filing a petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition, arguing the trial court had no jurisdiction.  The state filed an opposition, arguing that trial court erred when it vacated the plea but it had authority to recall the sentence.  NCVLI, together with the victims, filed an amici curiae brief, arguing the trial court had the power to vacate the plea and recall the sentence under the facts of the case.  Amici argued that a contrary conclusion would render the victims, and other similarly situated victims, without any remedy for a clear violation of their constitutional rights; an outcome unsupported by law or policy.  We will keep you posted on the outcome.