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MORRIS GLEN HARRIS, JR.

, Petitioner,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Respondent;
THE PEOPLE, Real Party in Interest.
No. B264839.

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Five.

November 18, 2015.


As Modified December 1, 2015.

OPINION

As part of a plea agreement, defendant Morris Glen Harris, Jr. (defendant), pled guilty to a
felony charge of grand theft from a person and agreed to admit a prior strike and receive a
six-year prison sentence, in exchange for dismissal of the more serious felony charge of
robbery. More than a year later, California voters passed Proposition 47, which allowed
defendant to petition for reduction of his felony grand theft conviction to a misdemeanor.
The issue presented is whether the People may withdraw from the plea agreement and
reinstate the original charges where the plea-bargained felony charge becomes a
misdemeanor as a result of Proposition 47.

(1) Under the circumstances of this case, we conclude that reduction of the plea-
bargained felony charge to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 deprives the
People of the benefit of the bargain of its plea agreement. Therefore, the People are
entitled to withdraw from the plea and reinstate the previously dismissed charges,
thus returning the parties to the status quo ante.

Benton v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 306 F.2d 179 (6th
Cir.1962)

Complainants cite Benton v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co., 306 F.2d 179 (6th
Cir.1962) wherein a seller delivered possession of a truck to the buyer but retained the
certificate of title until a substantial amount should be paid. The district court found, and the
appellate court agreed that the seller deliberately retained the ownership and that the
seller's insuror was liable. This case is distinguishable from the present case because no
evidence of transfer was executed and delivered as in the present case; the parties
expressly agreed that ownership was not to pass, which agreement did not occur in the
present case; and the appellate court was affirming a finding of fact by a trial court, whereas
this Court is asked by the complainants to reverse the finding of the trial court.

This Court cannot agree with the Benton opinion that "ownership could not pass without
compliance with Section 59-319 (T.C.A.)". On the contrary, under suitable circumstances, a
transfer of ownership may occur without compliance with the requirements of the Motor
Vehicle Title and Registration Law.