Supreme Court of California Justia
Docket No. S271057
People v. Prudholme

Plaintiff and Respondent,
Defendant and Appellant.
Fourth Appellate District, Division Two
San Bernardino County Superior Court
June 26, 2023
Justice Corrigan authored the opinion of the Court, in which
Chief Justice Guerrero and Justices Liu, Kruger, Groban,
Jenkins, and Evans concurred.

Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
Assembly Bill No. 1950 (2019–2020 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly
Bill 1950) became effective on January 1, 2021 and reduced the
maximum length of probation for most felonies to two years.
(See Pen. Code, § 1203.1, as amended by Stats. 2020, ch. 328,
§ 2.) We must decide whether this provision applies
retroactively to cases not yet final on appeal and, if so, the
proper remedy for applying the new law to an existing plea
agreement that provided for a longer probationary term. We
hold Assembly Bill 1950 applies retroactively to nonfinal cases
and the proper remedy is to modify the probationary term to
conform with the new law while maintaining the remainder of
the plea agreement. Accordingly, we modify the judgment to
reduce the length of probation from three years to two and
otherwise affirm the judgment.
In November 2018, defendant Ricky Prudholme and two
others were seen loading items from a commercial loading dock
into two pickup trucks. As they began to drive off, employees of
the business blocked the way. Defendant tried to evade them
but hit an obstruction. He got out of his truck and began yelling
at the employees, claiming he injured his back and threatening
to sue them. Police arrested defendant and his cohorts. The trio
had loaded their trucks with over $4,100 worth of electronic
equipment, which was recovered. All three were originally
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
charged together with one count of second degree robbery.1 The
codefendants are not part of this appeal.
Proceedings were suspended for a time because defense
counsel declared a doubt as to defendant’s competence.2 The
court found him competent several months later and reinstated
proceedings. The record reflects that defendant was 58 years
old at the time of the crime. His only prior offense was a
misdemeanor vandalism conviction in 2000. The maximum
exposure for a second degree robbery is five years in state
prison.3 Pursuant to a negotiated disposition, the robbery
charge was dismissed and defendant pled to second degree
burglary, a wobbler punishable by a prison term of 16, 24, or 36
months, or up to one year in the county jail.4 The maximum
available probationary term was five years. The parties agreed
to three years of probation. Conditions required defendant to
serve a year in the county jail, which he had already completed;
submit to a search of his person and residence; stay away from
the victim business; and otherwise obey all laws. Defendant
filed a notice of appeal, the bases of which were not set out in
the notice.
While that appeal was pending, the Legislature enacted
Assembly Bill 1950. (See Stats. 2020, ch. 328, § 2, amending
Pen. Code, § 1203.1.) Defendant argued the new law applied to
See Penal Code sections 211, 212.5, subdivision (c).
See Penal Code section 1368.
Penal Code section 213, subdivision (a)(2).
See Penal Code sections 459, 460, subdivision (b), 461,
subdivision (b), and 1170, subdivision (h)(1). “A wobbler is a
crime that can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor.”
(In re G.C. (2020) 8 Cal.5th 1119, 1122, fn. 1.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
him retroactively and required his probation term be reduced to
two years but that the remainder of the plea agreement should
remain in place. The Court of Appeal agreed the probation limit
applied to defendant retroactively but that People v. Stamps
(2020) 9 Cal.5th 685 (Stamps) required the case be remanded to
the trial court to “permit the People and trial court an
opportunity to withdraw from the plea agreement.” (People v.
(Aug. 26, 2021, E076007) [nonpub. opn.].) We
granted defendant’s petition for review.
A. Probation and Assembly Bill 1950
Following a conviction, the court may release certain
offenders on probation. “Probation is generally reserved for
convicted criminals whose conditional release into society poses
minimal risk to public safety and promotes rehabilitation.”
(People v. Carbajal (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1114, 1120.) A grant of
probation is “qualitatively different from such traditional forms
of punishment as fines or imprisonment. Probation is neither
‘punishment’ (see [Pen. Code,] § 15)[5] nor a criminal ‘judgment’
(see [Pen. Code,] § 1445). Instead, courts deem probation an act
of clemency in lieu of punishment [citation], and its primary
purpose is rehabilitative in nature [citation].” (People v.
(1997) 16 Cal.4th 1081, 1092.
Penal Code section 15 defines a crime or public offense as
“an act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or
commanding it, and to which is annexed, upon conviction, either
[sic] of the following punishments,” specifying death,
imprisonment, fine, removal from office, or “[d]isqualification to
hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit in this State.”
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
The Legislature has declared “that the provision of
probation services is an essential element in the administration
of criminal justice.” (Pen. Code,6 § 1202.7.) A primary goal of
probation is to ensure the safety of the public through the
enforcement of court-ordered conditions. A number of factors
bear on a decision to grant probation. The sentencing court
considers the nature of the offense; the needs of the defendant;
the loss to the victim; and the interests of justice, which include
punishment, reintegration of the offender into the community,
and enforcement of probation conditions. (See ibid.; see also
Cal. Rules of Court, rule 4.414.) “If the court determines that
there are circumstances in mitigation of the punishment
prescribed by law or that the ends of justice would be served,” it
may place the defendant on probation. (§ 1203, subd. (b)(3).) A
court may impose probationary conditions it determines “fitting
and proper to the end that justice may be done, that amends
may be made to society for the breach of the law, for any injury
done to any person resulting from that breach, and generally
and specifically for the reformation and rehabilitation of the
probationer . . . .” (§ 1203.1, subd. (j).) “Although the
Legislature has directed in some circumstances that probation
be unavailable or limited, in most circumstances the trial court
has broad discretion to choose probation when sentencing a
criminal offender.” (People v. Moran (2016) 1 Cal.5th 398, 402,
fns. omitted; see § 1203, subds. (e), (k).
Before Assembly Bill 1950 amended section 1203.1, a
“court could impose felony probation for a period ‘not exceeding
the maximum possible term of the sentence,’ except ‘where the
Subsequent statutory references are to the Penal Code
unless noted.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
maximum possible term of the sentence [was] five years or less,’
in which case probation could [not] ‘continue for . . . over five
years.’ ” (People v. Forester (2022) 78 Cal.App.5th 447, 451,
quoting former § 1203.1, subd. (a).)7 The new two-year
probation limit of Assembly Bill 1950 does not apply to violent
felonies defined in section 667.5, subdivision (c), offenses which
include “specific probation lengths within its provisions,” or to
certain theft or financial crimes exceeding a loss of $25,000.
(§ 1203.1, subd. (l)(1) & (2).)8 None of these exceptions apply
According to the bill’s author, the reduction of the
maximum probation term for most offenses was based on
research showing “that probation services, such as mental
health care and addiction treatment, are most effective during
the first 18 months of supervision” and “that providing
increased supervision and services earlier reduces an
individual’s likelihood” to reoffend. (Sen. Com. on Public Safety,
Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950 (2019–2020 Reg Sess.) as
amended June 10, 2020, p. 4.) Additional research cited by bill
proponents suggested “ ‘that the maximum time needed to
engage probationers in behavior change and reduce the
likelihood of reoffending is no more than two years, while also
“Assembly Bill No. 1950 also amended section 1203a to
limit probation terms to one year for most misdemeanor
offenses. (Stats. 2020, ch. 328, § 1.)” (People v. Forester, supra,
78 Cal.App.5th at p. 452, fn. 3.
Effective January 1, 2022, the Legislature amended
section 1203.1 to eliminate an administrative fee for the
collection of victim restitution ordered as a condition of
probation. (See Stats. 2021, ch. 257, § 22.) That provision is not
before us.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
creating incentives for individuals to engage in treatment and
services early on.’ ” (Id. at p. 5.) The bill’s author urged that it
“creates reasonable and evidence-based limits on probation
terms, while lowering costs to taxpayers, allowing for the
possible investment of savings in effective measures proven to
reduce recidivism and increasing public safety for all
Californians. The bill also supports probation officers in
completing the duties of their job more effectively, by making
their caseloads more manageable.” (Id. at p. 4.) A report of the
Assembly Committee on Public Safety also noted that “[i]f the
fact that an individual is on probation can increase the
likelihood that they will be taken back into custody for a
probation violation that does not necessarily involve new
criminal conduct, then shortening the period of supervision is a
potential avenue to decrease individuals’ involvement in the
criminal justice system for minor infractions.” (Assem. Com. on
Public Safety, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950 (2019–2020 Reg.
Sess.) as amended May 6, 2020, p. 5.
B. Assembly Bill 1950 Applies Retroactively to All
Nonfinal Cases
Defendant contends Assembly Bill 1950 applies to him
retroactively because it went into effect while his case was
pending on appeal and, thus, not final. The Attorney General
agrees, as do we.
“ ‘It is well settled that a new statute is presumed to
operate prospectively absent an express declaration of
retrospectivity or a clear indication that the electorate, or the
Legislature, intended otherwise.’ [Citations.] The Penal Code
provides that ‘[n]o part of it is retroactive, unless expressly so
declared.’ (§ 3.)” (Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th at pp. 698–699.) It
is undisputed that both the Legislature and the electorate
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
(sometimes hereafter “enactors”) have the power, subject to
constitutional limitations, to declare that an amendment is to
apply retroactively. (Ibid.) A difficulty arises when enactors fail
to express a clear intention on that subject.
In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740 (Estrada) involved just
such a case. A new statute reduced the prison term for the
defendant’s offense but made no express statement as to
whether that reduction should apply retroactively. Previous
Court of Appeal cases had held “the old law should continue to
operate as to past acts, so far as punishment is concerned.” (Id.
at p. 747.)9 Estrada noted and disapproved those cases. (See
Estrada, at p. 748.) It reasoned that the prospective application
provision of section 3 “simply embodies the general rule of
construction, coming to us from the common law, that when
there is nothing to indicate a contrary intent in a statute it will
be presumed that the Legislature intended the statute to
operate prospectively and not retroactively. That rule of
construction, however, is not a straitjacket. Where the
Legislature has not set forth in so many words what it intended,
the rule of construction should not be followed blindly in
complete disregard of factors that may give a clue to the
legislative intent. It is to be applied only after, considering all
pertinent factors, it is determined that it is impossible to
ascertain the legislative intent. In the instant case there are, as
See People v. Fowler (1959) 175 Cal.App.2d 808, 812; In re
Crane (1935) 4 Cal.App.2d 265, 266–267; People v. King (1934
136 Cal.App. 717, 721; People v. Lindsay (1925) 75 Cal.App. 115,
121; People v. Edwards (1925) 72 Cal.App. 102, 119; People v.
Pratt (1924) 67 Cal.App. 606, 608; People v. Davis (1924) 67
Cal.App. 210, 215; People v. Williams (1914) 24 Cal.App. 646,
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
will be pointed out, other factors that indicate the Legislature
must have intended that the amendatory statute should operate
in all cases not reduced to final judgment at the time of its
passage.” (Estrada, at p. 746.
Estrada explained that in such a situation, the problem “is
one of trying to ascertain the legislative intent — did the
Legislature intend the old or new [punishment] statute to apply?
Had the Legislature expressly stated which statute should
apply, its determination, either way, would have been legal and
constitutional. It has not done so. We must, therefore, attempt
to determine the legislative intent from other factors.” (Estrada,
63 Cal.2d at p. 744.) Estrada held that “[w]hen the
Legislature amends a statute so as to lessen the punishment it
has obviously expressly determined that its former penalty was
too severe and that a lighter punishment is proper as
punishment for the commission of the prohibited act. It is an
inevitable inference that the Legislature must have intended
that the new statute imposing the new lighter penalty now
deemed to be sufficient should apply to every case to which it
constitutionally could apply. The amendatory act imposing the
lighter punishment can be applied constitutionally to acts
committed before its passage provided the judgment convicting
the defendant of the act is not final.” (Id. at p. 745.
Estrada involved an amendment that reduced the prison
term the defendant was serving. However, as noted, a grant of
probation is generally not considered punishment but an act of
leniency aimed at reforming the defendant, reducing recidivism,
and securing restitution to the victim. The amendment in
Estrada reduced his term of incarceration, not a length of
probation. As a result, that case is not directly on point. When
enacting Assembly Bill 1950, the Legislature did not express an
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
intent with regard to retroactivity, nor did it decrease the
punishment for an offense. The question here, then, is the same
as in Estrada: Despite its silence regarding retroactive
application, does the new statutory language and the history of
its enactment by “necessary implication” lead to an “inevitable
inference” that the Legislature “must have intended” to reduce
the available probationary period “to every case to which it
constitutionally could apply”? (Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d at pp.
744, 745.) We conclude that the Legislature must have so
While placing a defendant on probation itself is deemed an
act of clemency, the court may impose various conditions on the
probationary grant. These include the imposition of a jail term,
the suspension of a further jail or prison sentence, and the
payment of a fine or victim restitution. In addition, the court
may require the probationer to submit to a search of his home,
car, person, electronic devices and social media accounts.
Probation conditions may restrict where the defendant can go,
with whom he can associate, where he lives and whether he can
move or leave the county. He may be required to wear a device
that continuously monitors his whereabouts. While probation
conditions can serve rehabilitative ends, they can also be
invasive and restrictive. Their violation can lead to a return to
jail or prison, without the right to a jury trial on the question of
the violation or the commission of a new offense. (See People v.
(2021) 59 Cal.App.5th 943, 959–960 (Sims).
Although probation is not considered a traditional form of
punishment, in light of these restrictions on personal liberty
contemplated by the imposition of probation, we conclude the
rationale of Estrada applies equally here. Estrada concluded
that a reduction of punishment reflected a legislative conclusion
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
that the previous term of incarceration was too lengthy, and the
new shorter term was sufficient. A similar inference may be
made here. By noting the significant impacts probation places
on a defendant’s liberty interests, along with the perceived
practical advantages and increased efficacy achieved by
reducing the probationary term, the Legislature clearly
indicated an intent to reduce those impacts and achieve those
advantages as expeditiously and economically as possible. It
concluded that, as a matter of policy, the longer probationary
terms previously allowed were unduly costly and
counterproductive, and that a reduced maximum probationary
term serves the public interest. (See discussion, ante, at pp. 5–
6.) An analysis by one legislative committee noted studies which
“argue that rather than being rehabilitative, the experience of
probation can actually increase the probability of future
incarceration . . . . Scholars argue that the enhanced
restrictions and monitoring of probation set probationers up to
fail, with mandatory meetings, home visits, regular drug
testing, and program compliance incompatible with the
instability of probationers’ everyday lives.” (Assem. Com. on
Public Safety, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950, supra, as
amended May 6, 2020, p. 5.
As a result, there is adequate support for the conclusion
that the Legislature “must have intended” to reduce the
available probationary period in “every case to which it
constitutionally could apply.” (Estrada, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p.
745.) As Sims reasoned, “by limiting the maximum duration a
probationer can be subject to such restraint, Assembly Bill
No. 1950 has a direct and significant ameliorative benefit for at
least some probationers who otherwise would be subject to
additional months or years of potentially onerous and intrusive
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
probation conditions.” (Sims, supra, 59 Cal.App.5th at p. 959;
see People v. Burton (2020) 58 Cal.App.5th Supp. 1, 15–16.
Because defendant’s case was still pending on appeal
when Assembly Bill 1950’s amendment went into effect, the new
law applies retroactively to him. Estrada involved a conviction
after trial. It concerned one simple question: When the
Legislature reduced punishment, what did it intend with regard
to retroactivity? In answering that question Estrada was not
called upon to grapple with legislation reflecting other policy
considerations, like the modification of a plea bargain. In the
context of a plea agreement, deciding that a statute applies
retroactively “does not answer the [separate] question of how
that statute should be applied.” (Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th at p.
700.) We now turn to that inquiry.
C. The Appropriate Remedy
Defendant contends the proper retroactive application of
Assembly Bill 1950 to a probationary term bargained for in a
plea agreement is to simply reduce the length of probation to
that now specified under the current law while leaving the
remainder of the plea bargain intact. The Attorney General
argues the proper procedure would be to remand to the trial
court to allow the parties to renegotiate a resolution in light of
the newly applicable alternatives. Under the particular facts
here, we agree with defendant.
1. Plea Agreements, Section 1192.5, Stamps and
When parties enter a plea bargain, each side negotiates to
gain a benefit. The prosecution most often agrees to a term that
is less than the defendant’s maximum exposure, obviating the
need for a trial and thus lessening the burden on victims,
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
witnesses and the system itself while providing the certainty of
a conviction. As here, the defense often achieves the benefit of
counts being dismissed or reduced and gains the protection of a
more limited exposure to what would otherwise be the risk of
harsher punishment. The court may be actively involved in the
negotiations and, in any event, must approve the plea
agreement, making it the ultimate arbiter of whether the
disposition is fair and appropriate. (See People v. Segura (2008
44 Cal.4th 921, 929.) “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.’ [Citations.] Plea agreements benefit that system by
promoting speed, economy, and the finality of judgments.”
Section 1192.5 provides, with exceptions not applicable
here, that “[u]pon a plea of guilty or nolo contendere to an
accusatory pleading charging a felony, . . . the plea may specify
the punishment . . . and may specify the exercise by the court
thereafter of other powers legally available to it.” (§ 1192.5,
subd. (a).)10 Upon acceptance of the agreement by the parties
and approval by the court, a defendant generally “cannot be
sentenced on the plea to a punishment more severe than that
specified in the plea and the court may not proceed as to the plea
other than as specified in the plea.” (§ 1192.5, subd. (b).) The
court, however, may “withdraw its approval in the light of
further consideration of the matter” (§ 1192.5, subd. (c)), in
Section 1192.5, subdivision (a) has recently been amended
to modify the offenses which are excluded from its provisions.
(See Stats. 2022, ch. 197, § 19.) This amendment did not affect
the application of the statute to defendant’s offense.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
which case defendant may withdraw his plea. (See § 1192.5,
subd. (d).
“The statutory scheme contemplates that a court may
initially indicate its approval of an agreement at the time of the
plea but that ‘it may, at the time set for the hearing on the
application for probation or pronouncement of judgment,
withdraw its approval in the light of further consideration of the
matter . . . .’ (§ 1192.5.) ‘The code expressly reserves to the
court the power to disapprove the plea agreement’ up until
sentencing. [Citation.] ‘In exercising their discretion to approve
or reject proposed plea bargains, trial courts are charged with
the protection and promotion of the public’s interest in vigorous
prosecution of the accused, imposition of appropriate
punishment, and protection of victims of crimes. [Citation.] For
that reason, a trial court’s approval of a proposed plea bargain
must represent an informed decision in furtherance of the
interests of society . . . .’ ” (Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th at pp. 705–
706; see In re Alvernaz (1992) 2 Cal.4th 924, 941.) “The court’s
authority to withdraw its approval of a plea agreement has been
described as ‘near-plenary.’ ” (Stamps, at p. 708.
Stamps, as here, involved the intersection of this statutory
scheme of plea bargaining and the retroactivity rule of Estrada.
Stamps, who faced a potential “third strike” sentence of 25 years
to life, agreed to a plea bargain imposing a nine-year sentence,
which included a mandatory five-year enhancement for a prior
conviction of a serious felony. (§ 667, subd. (a); see Stamps,
9 Cal.5th at p. 693.) At the time the plea was negotiated,
“a fundamental assumption underlying the plea bargain”
(People v. Collins (1978) 21 Cal.3d 208, 215 (Collins)) was that
the sentencing court could not strike such an enhancement.
While that case was on appeal, the Legislature enacted Senate
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
Bill No. 1393 (2017–2018 Reg. Sess.) (Senate Bill 1393) (Stats.
2018, ch. 1013), which “removed provisions that prohibited a
trial court from striking a serious felony enhancement in
furtherance of justice under section 1385.” (Stamps, at p. 700.)11
The defendant argued his case should be remanded to
allow the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to strike
the enhancement, potentially reducing his agreed-upon prison
term of nine years to four. Stamps noted, however, that “[e]ven
when applicable, section 1385 ordinarily does not authorize a
trial court to exercise its discretion to strike in contravention of
a plea bargain for a specified term.” (Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th
at p. 700.) Stamps reasoned that “it is not enough for defendant
to establish that the amended section 1385 applies to him
retroactively under Estrada in order to receive the remedy he
seeks. In order to justify a remand for the court to consider
striking his serious felony enhancement while maintaining the
remainder of his bargain, defendant must establish not only
that Senate Bill 1393 applies retroactively, but that, in enacting
that provision, the Legislature intended to overturn long-
standing law that a court cannot unilaterally modify an agreed-
upon term by striking portions of it under section 1385. We are
not persuaded that the Legislature intended this result.” (Id. at
p. 701.
With respect to legislative intent, Stamps observed that
the “Legislature may have intended to modify the sentencing
scheme, but the legislative history does not demonstrate any
intent to overturn existing law regarding a court’s lack of
Section 1385 sets out the circumstances in which a court
may dismiss an action or enhancement “in furtherance of
justice.” (§ 1385, subd. (a).
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
authority to unilaterally modify a plea agreement. Indeed, none
of the legislative history materials mention plea agreements at
.” (Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th at p. 702.) Stamps continued:
“Senate Bill 1393 was intended to bring a court’s discretion to
strike a five-year serious felony enhancement in line with the
court’s general discretion to strike other enhancements. Thus,
the Legislature gave a court the same discretion to strike a
serious felony enhancement that it retains to strike any other
sentence enhancing provision. Its action did not operate to
change well-settled law that a court lacks discretion to modify a
plea agreement unless the parties agree to the modification.”
In this context, Stamps concluded a limited remand was
appropriate to allow the defendant “the opportunity to seek the
court’s exercise of its section 1385 discretion.” (Stamps, supra,
9 Cal.5th at p. 707.) If the court were inclined to exercise its
discretion to strike the enhancement, “such a determination
would have consequences to the plea agreement.” (Ibid.) The
court may withdraw its prior approval of the plea agreement
because “[t]he court’s exercise of its new discretion to strike the
serious felony enhancement, whether considered a new
circumstance in the case or simply a reevaluation of the
propriety of the bargain itself, would fall within the court’s
broad discretion to withdraw its prior approval of the plea
agreement.” (Id. at p. 708.) Further, barring the prosecution’s
agreement to reduce the agreed-upon sentence, “ ‘the prosecutor
is entitled to the same remedy as the defendant — withdrawal
of assent to the plea agreement.’ ” (Id. at p. 707.) Stamps
directed the defendant “should be allowed to make an informed
decision whether to seek relief on remand.” (Id. at p. 708.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
Section 1192.5 imposes a limitation on the court. While
the enactors themselves retain the power to amend relevant
statutes in a manner that permits modification of previous plea
agreements, in the legislation at issue in Stamps the Legislature
did not do so. Stamps distinguished the amendment there at
issue from that in Harris v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.5th 984
(Harris). Harris considered the effect of Proposition 47 (Gen.
Elec. (Nov. 4, 2014)) on convictions, including those resulting
from plea agreements. “Proposition 47 reduced certain
nonviolent crimes . . . from felonies to misdemeanors” (Harris,
at p. 988), and created a resentencing petition procedure
applicable to those “serving a sentence for a conviction, whether
by trial or plea
, of a felony or felonies who would have been
guilty of a misdemeanor under the act that added this
section . . . had this act been in effect at the time of the offense”
(§ 1170.18, subd. (a), italics added). Harris rejected the People’s
claim that they should be allowed to withdraw from the plea
bargain if the defendant successfully petitions for resentencing
under Proposition 47. Harris observed that “[b]y expressly
mentioning convictions by plea, Proposition 47 contemplated
relief to all eligible defendants.” (Harris, at p. 991.) Harris
reasoned “[t]he resentencing process that Proposition 47
established would often prove meaningless if the prosecution
could respond to a successful resentencing petition by
withdrawing from an underlying plea agreement and
reinstating the original charges filed against the petitioner” and
“ ‘the financial and social benefits of Proposition 47 would not be
realized, and the voters’ intent and expectations would be
frustrated.’ ” (Id. at p. 992.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
2. Assembly Bill 1950’s Amendment to Section 1203.1
Created A Statutory Ambiguity With Section

“If defendant stood convicted of a crime . . . as a result of
trial or an open plea of guilty as charged” (Stamps, supra, 9
Cal.5th at p. 700), the remedy for retroactive application of
Assembly Bill 1950 would be straightforward: The probationary
term should be reduced to two years, the maximum period
allowed under section 1203.1 as amended. (See People v. Quinn
(2021) 59 Cal.App.5th 874, 879–885.
However, the inquiry regarding the proper retroactive
application of Assembly Bill 1950 is complicated here by the
existence of a plea bargain. Section 1192.5 generally constrains
what a court may do when presented with a plea agreement
between the parties. “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. [Citation.] “A plea agreement
is, in essence, a contract between the defendant and the
prosecutor to which the court consents to be bound.” [Citation.]
Should the court consider the plea bargain to be unacceptable,
its remedy is to reject it, not to violate it, directly or indirectly.
[Citation.] Once the court has accepted the terms of the
negotiated plea, “[it] lacks jurisdiction to alter the terms of a
plea bargain so that it becomes more favorable to a defendant
unless, of course, the parties agree.” ’ ” (People v. Segura, supra,
44 Cal.4th at p. 931.) As noted, section 1192.5, subdivision (b
expressly provides that once it approves a plea agreement, “the
court may not proceed as to the plea other than as specified in
the plea.”
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
The end result is that the Legislature has enacted two
statutes that could bear upon the outcome here. Section 1192.5
prohibits a court from violating plea bargain terms. On the
other hand, Assembly Bill 1950 amended section 1203.1 (Stats.
2020, ch. 328, § 2) to reduce the authorized probationary period
but, unlike the provision in Harris, it made no mention of the
legislative intent regarding an application to pleas.
The parties to a plea agreement ordinarily negotiate a
disposition that offers benefits to both sides. Here, defendant
was initially charged with second degree robbery and faced a
maximum sentence of five years in prison. In exchange for
dismissal of that count and imposition of a three-year
probationary term, defendant pled to second degree burglary.
This resolution by plea agreement created an added wrinkle.
Although Assembly Bill 1950 generally reflected an intent to
reduce probationary terms in applicable cases, it “did not,
however, eliminate or reduce sentences related to other offenses
and enhancements [like the original robbery charge] that
remain legally valid in any particular case, but which may not
have been imposed or may have been dismissed as part of the
original agreed-upon sentence.” (People v. Scarano (2022) 74
Cal.App.5th 993, 1011, review granted June 1, 2022, S273830.
Indeed, the parties here could have achieved the same three-
year probationary term by having defendant plead to the
originally charged second degree robbery count. Had they done
so, Assembly Bill 1950 would not have reduced the applicable
probationary term because robbery falls within an exception for
violent felonies. (See §§ 667.5, subd. (c)(9), 1203.1, subd. (l)(2).
The language of amended section 1203.1 has created a
statutory ambiguity regarding how the law should be applied
retroactively to existing plea agreements. Did the Legislature
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
intend such application should be governed by section 1192.5,
subdivision (b), which mandates “the court may not proceed as
to the plea other than as specified in the plea”? Or did the
Legislature intend to exercise its own inherent power to alter
plea bargains in cases not yet final?
Generally, a court may not accept an unauthorized plea.
“ ‘Where a trial court is asked to approve an illegal plea
bargain — illegal because it violates a policy condition
established by the Legislature or the people through the
initiative process — the proper course of action for the court is
clear. It should decline to act in excess of its authority and
should refuse to approve an arrangement under which it is
called upon to do so.’ ” (People v. John (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th
168, 176.) “Faced with . . . an unlawful plea bargain, a trial
court should withhold approval of the bargain.” (People v. Ellis
(1987) 195 Cal.App.3d 334, 342.) Thus, if a court has approved
a plea bargain containing an illegal term, ordinarily, the
recourse for a court would not be to reform the bargain to make
it legal; it would be to withdraw its prior approval of the
agreement. Under such circumstances, a limited remand akin
to that employed in Stamps might seem most appropriate to
allow the prosecution to either agree to the new, reduced term
or for the parties to negotiate a different, legally authorized
disposition in light of the new law. (See Stamps, supra, 9
Cal.5th at pp. 705–708.
However, the plea agreement here was undoubtedly
lawful at the time the parties negotiated it and the court
assented. As we have previously observed, “[t]hat the parties
enter into a plea agreement thus does not have the effect of
insulating them from changes in the law that the Legislature has
intended to apply to them
.” (Doe v. Harris (2013) 57 Cal.4th 64,
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
66, italics added.) We found such an intent in the context of
Proposition 47, concluding the electorate did not intend to allow
the prosecution to withdraw from a plea bargain when a
defendant successfully sought resentencing under that law’s
new scheme. (See Harris, supra, 1 Cal.5th at pp. 991–993.) The
Legislature has subsequently codified our statement in Doe v.
that plea agreements are not insulated “from changes in
the law that the Legislature has intended to apply to them,” and
any provision of a bargain “that requires a defendant to
generally waive future benefits of legislative enactments,
initiatives, appellate decisions, or other changes in the law that
may retroactively apply after the date of the plea is void as
against public policy.” (§ 1016.8, subds. (a)(1), (b), italics added.
So the question remains: When it amended section
1203.1, did the Legislature intend to exercise its own authority
to change the terms of an existing plea bargain to reduce the
length of an agreed-upon term of probation? In Harris, we based
our conclusion “on the unambiguous language of section 1170.18
and the expressed intent of Proposition 47” (Harris, supra, 1
Cal.5th at p. 992). That level of clarity does not exist here. “At
the end of the day, the language of the [the new law] is simply
unclear. ‘When the language of a statute is ambiguous — that
is, when the words of the statute are susceptible to more than
one reasonable meaning, given their usual and ordinary
meaning and considered in the context of the statute as a
whole — we consult other indicia of the [the enactors’] intent,
including such extrinsic aids as legislative history and public
policy.’ ” (People v. Henderson (2022) 14 Cal.5th 34, 51.) The
Legislature clearly intended to reduce the maximum
probationary periods going forward. But given section 1192.5’s
prohibition on a court’s modification of a plea agreement, a
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
textual and contextual ambiguity exists concerning the
Legislature’s intent to exercise its own authority to modify
existing plea agreements.
3. The Legislature Intended To Reduce The
Probationary Terms in Nonfinal Plea Agreements
“Our fundamental task is to determine the Legislature’s
intent to effectuate the law’s purpose, giving the statutory
language its plain and commonsense meaning. We examine
that language, not in isolation, but in the context of the
statutory framework as a whole to discern its scope and purpose
and to harmonize the various parts of the enactment. [Citation.]
‘If the language is clear, courts must generally follow its plain
meaning unless a literal interpretation would result in absurd
consequences the Legislature did not intend. If the statutory
language permits more than one reasonable interpretation,
courts may consider other aids, such as the statute’s purpose,
legislative history, and public policy.’ [Citation.] The wider
historical circumstances of a law’s enactment may assist in
ascertaining legislative intent, supplying context for otherwise
ambiguous language.” (Busker v. Wabtec Corp. (2021) 11
Cal.5th 1147, 1157–1158.) “Generally, we consult extrinsic
sources, like a statute’s history, to interpret a statute only when
its language is ambiguous.” (People v. Tran (2022) 13 Cal.5th
1169, 1220.
Initially, we observe that Assembly Bill 1950 did not
reduce the punishment for any particular offense or
enhancement. Instead, it reduced the maximum allowable
probation term for a wide range of offenses. As noted, a
legislative analysis of the bill stated, “Proponents of reducing
the length of probation terms argue that probation supervision
is most beneficial in the early part of a probation term. In
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
addition, advocates argue that increased levels of supervision
can lead to increased involvement with the criminal justice
system due to the likelihood that minor violations will be
detected. The proponents of probation reform further contend
that reducing the length of probation terms would enable
probation officers to more effectively manage their caseloads by
focusing resources on those most at risk of reoffending.” (Sen.
Rules Com., Off. of Sen. Floor Analyses, 3d reading analysis of
Assem. Bill No. 1950 (2019–2020 Reg. Sess.) as amended June
10, 2020, p. 5.) According to the bill’s author, a 2018 study
“revealed that 20 percent of prison admissions in California are
the result of probation violations,” and research showed “that
probation services, such as mental health care and addiction
treatment, are most effective during the first 18 months of
supervision. Research also indicates that providing increased
supervision and services earlier reduces an individual’s
likelihood to recidivate.” (Sen. Com. on Public Safety, Analysis
of Assem. Bill No. 1950, supra, as amended June 10, 2020, p. 5.
The legislative history of Assembly Bill 1950 reflects a
determination by the Legislature that a shorter period of
probation would more effectively achieve the rehabilitative
goals undergirding probation by concentrating services earlier
in the probation cycle when they are predicted to be most
effective. Further, according to the bill’s author, to the extent
that “half of those [probation] violations are technical and minor
in nature, such as missing a drug rehab appointment or
socializing with a friend who has a criminal record” (Sen. Com.
on Public Safety, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950, supra, as
amended June 10, 2020, p. 4), a shorter period of probation
would reduce the length of time during which a defendant could
violate probation on such technicality. (See Assem. Com. on
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
Public Safety, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950, supra, as
amended May 6, 2020, pp. 5–6.) As Sims observed, “[T]hese
legislative materials . . . suggest the Legislature viewed
Assembly Bill No. 1950 as an ameliorative change to the
criminal law that would ensure that many probationers avoid
imprisonment.” (Sims, supra, 59 Cal.App.5th at p. 962.
The Legislature thus enacted Assembly Bill 1950 to
reduce the length of probation across the board in order to
increase probationary effectiveness and reduce the likelihood of
incarceration for minor probation violations. These goals would
seem to apply to all probationary terms regardless of whether
they are imposed following conviction at trial, an open plea, or a
plea agreement. A reduction in punishment for a particular
offense says nothing, directly, about the Legislature’s intent to
modify plea bargains. Yet, the reduction of the authorized
probationary period does not speak to punishment precisely, but
to the efficiency and efficacy of probation as a rehabilitative
device in a variety of circumstances. (See § 1203.1, subd. (l).
As the legislative history indicates, opponents of the bill
argued “that a case-by-case approach is needed rather than an
across the board decrease in the length of probation terms.”
(Sen. Com. on Public Safety, Analysis of Assem. Bill No. 1950,
supra, as amended June 10, 2020, p. 5; see also id., at pp. 7–8.
Similarly, the Attorney General argues “[i]t would be
speculative to infer from AB 1950’s purposes an intent to deprive
the trial court of its broad sentencing discretion and statutorily
vested authority to withdraw its prior approval of the plea in
cases where a shorter probation term does not further the
interests of justice or society.” However, the Legislature
adopted an across-the-board approach, notwithstanding
arguments for a more case-specific consideration. The
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
Legislature has thus signaled its view that, for an eligible
defendant, a shorter period of probation generally serves the
public’s interests, regardless of how a conviction was secured.
As defendant argues, employing the Stamps procedure
and allowing the prosecution to withdraw from the plea
agreement would appear contrary to the purposes underlying
the new law as explored in the previous paragraph.
Presumably, the prosecution would seek to withdraw from a
plea bargain as a result of Assembly Bill 1950 if it views the
newly reduced maximum probationary term as insufficient
under the particular circumstances of the case. Yet if the
bargained-for statutory probation term is now considered
insufficient, the People’s only recourse would be to require a plea
to a more serious offense, making Assembly Bill 1950’s two-year
probation limit inapplicable, or to seek a prison term. It seems
doubtful the Legislature intended that its ameliorative action
would transform plea bargains for probationary terms into
dispositions calling for admission of a more serious offense or a
state prison sentence, given the legislative history.
Reducing defendant’s probationary term from three to two
years here would not so “fundamentally alter[] the character of
the bargain” that the People should have an opportunity to
withdraw from the plea agreement. (Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d
at p. 215.) In Collins, the defendant was originally charged with
attempted burglary, six counts of burglary, two counts of forcible
rape, three counts of assault with intent to commit rape, and
three counts of forcible oral copulation, as well as an
enhancement for a prior felony conviction. As part of a
negotiated disposition, he pled guilty to one count of oral
copulation without force as a lesser offense to one of the forcible
oral copulation allegations. All other substantive offenses and
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
the prior conviction allegation were dismissed. Criminal
proceedings were then suspended and Collins was indefinitely
committed to the state hospital as a mentally disordered sex
offender. (See id. at p. 211.
Months later, the Legislature amended the statute
criminalizing oral copulation. While the act remained a felony
if effected by force, consensual oral copulation between
nonprisoner adults was decriminalized. Fourteen months after
his commitment, Collins was found no longer a danger to others
and criminal proceedings were reinstated. The court sentenced
him to a prison term of one to 15 years, the term provided under
the indeterminate sentencing scheme at the time of his plea.
Collins reversed the sentence, reasoning that, under Estrada,
his conviction was not yet final and the defendant could not be
sentenced for an offense that was no longer a crime.12 (See
Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at pp. 212–213.
However, Collins concluded the prosecution was entitled
on remand to reinstate the dismissed counts, reasoning:
“Critical to plea bargaining is the concept of reciprocal benefits.
When either the prosecution or the defendant is deprived of
benefits for which it has bargained, corresponding relief will lie
from concessions made.” (Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 214.
“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. . . . When a defendant
The People argued the sentencing court should be allowed
to examine the facts underlying the plea, which showed that
Collins used force to commit the crime. The court rejected the
argument because, notwithstanding the original charge, the act
that Collins actually admitted was no longer criminal. (See
Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 213, fn. 1.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
gains total relief from his vulnerability to sentence, the state is
substantially deprived of the benefits for which it agreed to
enter the bargain.” (Id. at p. 215.
Collins is distinguishable. Initially, Prudholme, unlike
Collins, would not “gain[] total relief from his vulnerability to
sentence.” (Collins, supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 215.) He was required
to serve a county jail sentence and would remain subject to a
probationary term, albeit one of shorter duration. But even
assuming a modification granting less than total relief to a
defendant could still fundamentally alter a plea bargain under
some circumstances, the People here agreed to a disposition that
included a probationary term for less than the maximum period
of five years allowed under then-existing law. Other than a one
year probation term reduction, every other condition of
probation would remain in place. (See discussion, ante, at pp. 2–
3.) Defendant pled guilty to a lesser offense than the single
count charged. His conviction of that single count reduced his
maximum prison exposure by two years. However, the
prosecution was satisfied that the county jail term imposed a
sufficient penalty. No additional allegations had been charged,
so none were dismissed as part of the agreement. (But see
Stamps, supra, 9 Cal.5th at p. 693.) Under these circumstances,
“we find the People have not been substantially deprived of the
benefit of the plea agreement, and under Collins, they are not
entitled to withdraw from it.” (People v. Shelly (2022) 81
Cal.App.5th 181, 189, italics added; see Bowden v. Superior
(2022) 82 Cal.App.5th 735, 745–747.
In sum, we determine that, by enacting Assembly Bill
1950, the Legislature intended that its new limitations on the
maximum term of probation in amended section 1203.1 should
be applied to existing, nonfinal plea agreements while otherwise
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
maintaining the remainder of the bargain.13 We discern this
intent from the goals of the legislation, which would be thwarted
if the prosecution could routinely withdraw from plea
agreements where it deemed the probationary length
insufficient. Assembly Bill 1950 reflects the Legislature’s
categorical determination that a reduced maximum
probationary term serves the public’s interest in those cases to
which it applies. As noted, the reduction in punishment for a
particular offense, standing alone, says nothing about the
Legislature’s intent with regard to existing plea bargains in
nonfinal cases. However, Assembly Bill 1950 does not reduce
the punishment prescribed for a given offense. While it appears
prompted in part by concern about the potentially punitive
effects of probation, it primarily reflects a changed approach to
the rehabilitative aspects of probation. Under these
circumstances, we conclude that neither the mandates of section
1192.5 nor the Stamps remand procedure should apply. The
proper remedy here is to modify the judgment to reflect the new
probationary term of two years.
We conclude by noting that determining legislative intent
in these circumstances can be a difficult, divisive, and time-
consuming one for courts, which have to discern intent from
sometimes opaque sources. That process, and the attendant
delay and confusion it brings, can be avoided by an express
statement by the enactors, which they have employed effectively
in other circumstances. (See, e.g., Stats. 2021, ch. 728, § 1.) We
echo the words of one court addressing the issue here that
“[g]iven the interpretative difficulties courts have faced, the
We disapprove People v. Scarano, supra, 74 Cal.App.5th
993 to the extent it reached a contrary conclusion.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
divergence of opinion on these matters, and the sheer volume of
nonfinal criminal cases in this state, the majority of which
involve plea bargains, the benefit of greater specificity from the
Legislature, or the electorate, cannot be overstated.” (People v.
Flores (2022) 77 Cal.App.5th 420, 452–453.) Simply put,
“[t]hese issues need not be addressed by appellate litigation if
the Legislature expressly states whether the sentencing reforms
it enacts are to be given retroactive application on appeal or not,
and if so, whether retroactive application applies to negotiated
sentences or not.” (People v. Scarano, supra, 74 Cal.App.5th at
p. 1000, fn. 2.) We urge the Legislature, and the electorate with
respect to ballot measures, to consider the retroactive
application of new laws and to regularly express their intent
regarding if and how they should be applied retroactively.
Opinion of the Court by Corrigan, J.
The judgment is modified to reduce the length of probation
to two years. As modified, the judgment of the Court of Appeal
is affirmed.
We Concur:


See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who
argued in Supreme Court.
Name of Opinion People v. Prudholme

Procedural Posture
(see XX below
Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
Review Granted (unpublished) XX NP opn. filed 8/26/21 – 4th
Dist., Div. 2
Rehearing Granted
Opinion No.
Date Filed: June 26, 2023

County: San Bernardino
Judge: Kyle S. Brodie


Erica Gambale, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for
Defendant and Appellant.
Rob Bonta, Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Julie L. Garland and Charles C. Ragland, Assistant
Attorneys General, Arlene A. Sevidal, Steve Oetting and Elizabeth M.
Kuchar, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for
publication with opinion):
Erica Gambale
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 2896
Mission Viejo, CA 92690
(949) 293-3486
Elizabeth M. Kuchar
Deputy Attorney General
600 West Broadway, Suite 1800
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 738-9109
Opinion Information
Date:Docket Number:
Mon, 06/26/2023S271057