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Speedy Sentencing Procedure Applies to Probation Revocations, California Supreme Court Holds

California prisoners facing revocation of probation must be sentenced within 90 days after making a request under Penal Code 1381 or the probation revocation proceeding must be dismissed, the Supreme Court of California decided March 9, 2009.

David Wagner was placed on probation in 2003 after pleading guilty to unlawfully transporting methamphetamine. While on probation, Wagner was convicted of receiving stolen property and possessing a controlled substance. Wagner was sentenced to 16 months in state prison.

A detainer for violating Wagner’s probation was filed while Wagner was serving his sentence. Wagner requested final disposition of the probation violation under Penal Code 1381, which requires that a prisoner be brought “for sentencing within 90 days” of giving appropriate notice to the district attorney where “any criminal proceeding wherein the defendant remains to be sentenced” is pending. Failure to bring the defendant for sentencing within 90 days requires dismissal of “the action.”

Wagner was brought to court, but was not sentenced within 90 days of his 1381 request. Wagner’s attorney sought dismissal of the probation revocation proceeding arguing that Wagner’s 1381 request should be construed as a request under section 1203.2a, another mechanism prisoners may use to resolve probation violation proceedings. The court rejected Wagner’s attorney’s arguments, and sentenced Wagner to five years in prison.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that a prisoner could use either section 1203.2a or 1381 to resolve a pending probation revocation proceeding. Dismissal of Wagner’s probation revocation proceeding was required, the court held, as Wagner was not sentenced within 90 days of his 1381 request.

The Supreme Court of California affirmed. “Section 1203.2a is not the exclusive speedy sentencing procedure available to incarcerated probationers,” the court wrote. The court softened the impact of its decision, though, holding that the state could refile its probation revocation once following dismissal under section 1381. See: People v. Wagner, 5 Cal.4th 1039, 201 P.3d 1168 (Sup. Ct. Ca. 2009). [Also see: PLN, April 
2010, p. 8.]

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Related legal case

People v. Wagner