May Court Impose $2,450 Fine If Plea Bargain Silent on This?
Defendant Michael Anthony Cruz entered into a plea bargain for violation of Vehicle Code § 23153 (b), felony DUI, for driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher and causing injury. The plea bargain included a term of sixteen months in state prison and fines of $294.Article in Short Form: Court may impose additional $2,450 fine in felony DUI case even if plea bargain does not include such a fine.
A judge different than the one who took his plea then sentenced Cruz. That judge imposed the agreed upon term of sixteen months in prison and “a fine of $2,744.” The court clerk supplied statutory references on the abstract of judgment for all of the fines that added up to $2,744.
Cruz appealed the fines to the Third Appellate District, arguing that because such fines were not part of the plea bargain terms entered into the record, the additional fine was improper and excessive punishment. Cruz did agree later that the first $390 of the fine was permissible, as $390 is the mandatory minimum fine in a DUI with injuries under Vehicle Code § 23560.
“Where the parties have not mentioned the amount of the fine during plea negotiation, and where the trial court has not threatened or promised any particular amount of fine during the plea colloquy, the amount of the fine is not part of the plea agreement, and the trial court is free to impose within that statutory range. Absent an expressly negotiated term in the plea bargain concerning the fines [there is] no basis to conclude the imposition of a fine within the statutory range constitutes more punishment than what the defendant bargained for.”
Villalobos, supra, 54 Cal. 4th at 184.
The Third Appellate District then commented that since Vehicle Code § 23560 permitted a fine of up to $5,000 when the DUI was for violation of Vehicle Code 23153 when the violation was within ten years at a prior conviction for DUI (as was the case with Cruz), the fine of $2,744 was proper.
Accordingly, the trial court’s fine was affirmed. This case is significant in suggesting that when a plea is entered into the record, all terms should be specified. Second, it shows that courts have very little sympathy for DUI defendants, especially those convicted of felony DUI. This author will go out on a limb to state that if the underlying offense was for a misdemeanor such as trespassing, the ruling may not have been the same.
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