Plea agreements: juvenile proceedings: waiver: mandate:
Plea negotiations and agreements are an accepted and integral component of the criminal justice system and essential to the expeditious and fair administration of our courts. Plea agreements benefit that system by promoting speed, economy, and the finality of judgments. (People v. Segura (2008) 44 Cal.4th 921, 929; see People v. Panizzon (1996) 13 Cal.4th 68, 79–80.) The same is true in proceedings involving juvenile offenders. Plea bargaining is a common feature in juvenile delinquency proceedings, just as it is in criminal proceedings in adult court. Similar principles apply in both settings. (In re Ricardo C. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 688, 698; accord, In re Jermaine B. (1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 634, 639 [plea bargaining is an accepted practice in juvenile delinquency proceedings].)
A plea agreement is a tripartite agreement which requires the consent of the defendant, the People and the court. Acceptance of the agreement binds the court and the parties to the agreement. (People v. Feyrer (2010) 48 Cal.4th 426, 436–437.) Although a plea agreement does not divest the court of its inherent sentencing discretion, a judge who has accepted a plea bargain is bound to impose a sentence within the limits of that bargain. (People v. Segura, supra, 44 Cal.4th at p. 931.) Should the court consider the plea bargain to be unacceptable, its remedy is to reject it, not to violate it, directly or indirectly. (See People v. Blount (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 992, 997.)
A negotiated plea agreement is a form of contract and is interpreted according to general contract principles. (Doe v. Harris (2013) 57 Cal.4th 64, 69.) When enforcing such an agreement, courts will apply general contract principles to give effect to the mutual intention of the parties. (People v. Shelton (2006) 37 Cal.4th 759, 767.) Not all contract terms, however, are expressly stated in a contract. Experience and practice can, in some circumstances, lead courts to recognize the incorporation of implied terms to a contractual agreement. (Retired Employees Assn. of Orange County, Inc. v. County of Orange (2011) 52 Cal.4th 1171, 1178–1179.)
One such implied term of a plea agreement was recognized in People v. Harvey (1979) 25 Cal.3d 754. In Harvey, the defendant complained the trial court improperly sentenced him to the upper term for robbery by relying on the facts underlying a dismissed count to establish a circumstance in aggravation. We agreed. It would be improper and unfair to permit the sentencing court to consider any of the facts underlying the dismissed count three for purposes of aggravating or enhancing defendant‘s sentence. Count three was dismissed in consideration of defendant‘s agreement to plead guilty to counts one and two. Implicit in such a plea bargain, we think, is the understanding (in the absence of any contrary agreement) that defendant will suffer no adverse sentencing consequences by reason of the facts underlying, and solely pertaining to, the dismissed count. (Id., at p. 758.)
We recognized a different implied term for all plea agreements in Arbuckle, 22 Cal.3d 749, holding that a defendant‘s negotiated plea agreement necessarily included an implied term that the same judge who accepted his plea would preside at sentencing (…) Arbuckle reversed and remanded, explaining that he should be sentenced by the same judge who accepted his plea, or if internal court administrative practices render that impossible, then in the alternative defendant should be permitted to withdraw his plea. (Id. at p. 757.) We later applied the Arbuckle rule to a plea before a commissioner in juvenile court, where the parties impliedly stipulated that the judicial officer could act as a temporary judge. (Mark L., 34 Cal.3d 171.) The rule has since been extended to juvenile proceedings generally. (See In re James H. (1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 911, 917; In re Ray O. (1979) 97 Cal.App.3d 136, 139–140 [whenever a juvenile enters a plea bargain before a judge he has the right to be sentenced by that same judge].)
Even after Arbuckle, however, parties to a plea agreement—i.e., the pleading defendant and the prosecuting attorney—remained free to chart a different course by making explicit on the record that the defendant did not care if the same judge pronounced sentence. To do so, the prosecutor need only secure, at the time the plea is accepted, what has come to be known as an Arbuckle waiver. (See People v. Martinez (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1156, 1160).
(…) In sum, because of the plain meaning of the Arbuckle opinion, the contemporaneous understanding of that opinion by the Arbuckle dissenters, the understanding by the intermediate appellate courts and legal commentators in the years immediately following the case, this court‘s citation of Arbuckle with approval in both Mark L., 34 Cal.3d 171, and Rodriguez, 1 Cal.5th 676, and Mark L.‘s failure to question or undermine the basic reasoning of Arbuckle, we reject the appellate court‘s position below that it has been settled law for more than 25 years that an Arbuckle right to be sentenced by the judge who accepted a negotiated plea arises not as a matter of general principle, but only when the specific facts of a given case show that the plea was given in expectation of and in reliance upon sentence being imposed by the same judge. Instead, we adhere to the plain and original understanding of Arbuckle that in every plea in both adult and juvenile court, an implied term is that the judge who accepts the plea will be the judge who pronounces sentence. Should the People wish to allow a different judge to preside at sentencing (or, in juvenile cases, disposition), they should seek to obtain a waiver from the pleading defendant or juvenile.
(…) As a rule, trial courts accepting a plea always retain discretion over sentencing. Should the court later decide not to impose the negotiated sentence, the court can withdraw its prior approval of the bargain and allow the pleading defendant (or juvenile) to withdraw his or her plea.
(…) Conclusion: The judgment of the Court of Appeal denying K.R.‘s petition for writ of mandate is reversed, and the cause remanded with directions to grant the petition.
Secondary sources: Erwin et al., California Criminal Defense Practice (2016) Arraignment and Pleas, chapter 42.44, pages 42-154.8(5) to 42-154.9; California Criminal Law: Procedure and Practice (Cont. Ed. Bar 2015) Pronouncing Judgment, section 35.11, page 1028; Levenson, Cal. Criminal Procedure (2002–2003) Plea Bargaining, ¶ 14:17, p. 598; Witkin, Cal. Criminal Procedure (1985 Supp.) Proceedings Before Trial, § 265-O, p. 335 quoting Arbuckle; Seiser & Kumli, Cal. Juvenile Courts Practice and Procedure (1997) Delinquency, § 3.92, p. 3–94.
(Cal.S.C., June 29, 2017, K.R. v. Super. Ct., S231709, Diss. Op. by C.J. Cantil-Sakauye, J. Chin and J. Corrigan concur. with the dissent).
Plea agreement en droit pénal des adultes et des mineurs : les mêmes principes s'appliquent dans les deux cas.
Le plea agreement est un accord tripartite, qui lie le prévenu, l'accusation et le tribunal. Si un tel accord est soumis au tribunal et que celui-ci le trouve inacceptable, il devra le rejeter. Il ne pourra s'en distancer s'il l'a accepté (cf. toutefois ci-dessous in fine).
Le plea est négocié, il constitue une forme de contrat et il est interprété selon le droit général des contrats. Le cas échéant, le tribunal peut accepter l'incorporation de termes implicites dans l'accord.
La Cour a reconnu du contenu implicite dans le plea suivant : le prévenu avait plaidé coupable s'agissant des préventions une et deux. De la sorte, la prévention numéro trois avait été abandonnée. Le plea était ainsi entré en force. A la phase de fixation de la peine, le tribunal avait prononcé une aggravation de peine en se fondant sur des faits à la base de la seule prévention numéro trois. La Cour suprême, saisie, jugea que le plea contenait implicitement la notion selon laquelle le condamné ne souffrira nul préjudice des faits à la base de la seule prévention numéro trois (cf. People v. Harvey (1979) 25 Cal.3d 754).
La jurisprudence Arbuckle (22 Cal.3d 749) a en outre précisé que tous les plea agreements contenaient de manière implicite l'exigence que le juge qui a accepté le plea sera le juge qui présidera la phase de la procédure de fixation de la peine. Si les règles internes du tribunal ne permettent pas une telle organisation, l'accusé doit être autorisé à retirer son plea.
L'accusé peut renoncer à son droit à ce que le juge du plea soit le juge du prononcé de la peine. Dite renonciation doit être explicite et contemporaine au plea (Arbuckle waiver).
La présente espèce confirme que tous les plea, en droit pénal des adultes comme des mineurs, contiennent une clause implicite prévoyant l'identité du juge du plea et du juge du prononcé de la peine. Il est inexact de prétendre que cette clause n'est à retenir que si les faits de la cause démontrent que le plea a été conclu en considération de dite identité des deux juges.
Nonobstant ce qui précède, la cour pénale qui accepte un plea conserve ultérieurement son pouvoir d'appréciation de la peine à prononcer. Si la cour décide finalement de ne pas imposer la peine convenue, la cour peut retirer son approbation et permettre à l'accusé de retirer son plea.