Since the California Supreme Court approved the practice of plea bargaining in People v. West, the courts have struggled with determining the proper remedy for a broken plea bargain. The most common remedy is to allow the defendant to withdraw his plea. Where a defendant agrees to plead guilty in exchange for an agreed upon disposition of the case, plea withdrawal adequately remedies a resulting broken agreement by returning the defendant to the pre-plea bargained position.
In certain cases, however, specific enforcement of the plea bargain may be allowed as an alternative remedy and is most likely to be available when the agreement is broken by either the prosecutor or the defendant. When the judge breaks the agreement, California courts are reluctant to order specific enforcement - possibly due to the legislative barriers of California Penal Code section 1192.5.8 Notwithstanding section 1192.5, specific enforcement seems the only adequate remedy in situations where a defendant, in reliance on the agreement, is placed in such a position that a return to the pre-plea bargained status quo is impossible. This was the position in which the defendant found himself in People v. Calloway.
Lawrence E. Butler,
Specific Enforcement of Broken Plea Bargains in California: People v. Calloway, 12 Golden Gate U. L. Rev.