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Human Trafficking Plea Deal Voided by Appellate Court

People v. Richardson Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: A157529 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: June 10, 2021. Richardson pleaded no contest to human trafficking of a minor for a sex act (Pen. Code 236.1(c)(1)); seven remaining felony charges were dismissed. The victim was 26 years old and claimed that she unwillingly participated in sex work for Richardson to support her addiction and because he blackmailed her. Richardson was 29 years old and had no prior convictions. The district attorney told the court that the plea had been offered “in order to reduce the count from [the] eight-year minimum triad.” The trial court denied Richardson's request for probation and imposed a five-year state prison term allowed under the plea agreement. The court of appeal vacated, stating that while it did not wish to stifle or discourage creative dispositions in the trial courts, the trial court acted in excess of its jurisdiction when it approved the plea bargain. The law requires that any negotiated plea must have a factual basis. Richardson’s negotiated plea “was no more valid than a no-contest plea to murder where the victim is still alive.” The defendant’s failure to obtain a certificate of probable cause did not preclude the review of the plea agreement.

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