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Dirk/Dagger Conviction Remanded

People v. Houle Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: A159055 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: May 18, 2021. In July 2019, Houle pleaded no contest to unlawfully carrying a concealed dirk or dagger and admitted prior strike and prior prison term allegations. Houle received a stipulated six-year prison term for the dagger case, the reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor charge for intimidation of a witness in another case, and the dismissal of a third case involving an unspecified charge(s). The court imposed a four-year term for unlawfully carrying a concealed dirk or dagger and two one-year enhancements required for the prior prison terms. Effective January 1, 2020, Penal Code 667.5(b) was amended to eliminate the enhancement for prior prison terms except those based on sexually violent offenses. The prosecution agreed the amendment applies to Houle but argued the proper remedy is to strike the enhancements and remand to the trial court to exercise its discretion “to achieve a new sentence as near as possible to the six-year stipulated term.” The court of appeal held that remand is appropriate for the trial court to strike the section 667.5(b) enhancements and that the amendment rendered the parties’ plea bargain unenforceable. On remand, the trial court must restore the parties to the status quo ante. The parties may enter into a new plea agreement; if they do, the trial court may not impose a longer sentence than Houle’s original six-year term.

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