New State Laws Overhaul California Criminal Justice System

Over the past several weeks, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a number of initiatives intended to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Like similar measures at the federal level, these laws represent a push away from harsh penalties and punitive prison sentences in favor of a more sensible approach to crime and punishment.

Some of the most important measures signed by Governor Brown include:

  • SB 1393 – Senate Bill 1393 provides criminal judges with greater discretion when imposing sentences in cases involving serious felony crimes. Prior to the passing of SB 1393, judges were required by statute to add an additional 5 years to sentences arising from “serious felonies,” even if they believed that harsh sentencing enhancement to be unjust. It is supported widely by advocates for drug crime reform and social and racial justice groups.
  • SB 1437 – As we discussed in a recent blog, this bill focused on creating limitations to the state’s homicide law. Specifically, it reduces the liability of accomplices implicated in an alleged homicide, and limits judges from applying the harsh felony murder rule, which can hold individuals accountable for murder when a homicide occurs during a robbery or burglary, except when they are alleged to be the actual killer, or there is evidence they aided and abetted the individual responsible for the murder. Criminal justice reform advocates say the change is long overdue.
  • AB 1793 – Assembly Bill 1793 expands Proposition 64, a ballot measure approved by voters in 2016 to legalize cannabis for recreational use in California, and eliminate certain cannabis-related crimes on a person’s criminal record. While it applied retroactively to marijuana-related offenses, it failed to provide a functioning system for expunging convictions or reducing marijuana felonies to misdemeanors. The expansion now requires criminal courts to automatically expunge – or “erase” from public view” – past cannabis-related crimes, including many felony-related marijuana convictions.
  • SB 1391 – Senate Bill 1391 is a measure that relates to juvenile crimes and the court’s ability to prosecute minors under the age of 18 as adults. By signing the initiative, Governor Brown has reformed state policies and now prevents minors under 15 from being tried as adults in the criminal justice system. Instead, they cases will be handled accordingly in juvenile courts.

In addition to these laws, Governor Brown also signed measures which expand public access to personnel records of law enforcement and require the timely release of bod-cam footage relating to significant police-involved incidents, both of which are intended to increase transparency. All measures are slated to take effect on the first of the New Year.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Southern California

Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP has earned national recognition for our work in criminal defense, and for our abilities to protect the rights and futures of our clients. By staying apprised of the latest legislative changes, and efforts to pass new measures and meaningful criminal justice reform, we are able to identify how our clients’ cases fit into the “larger picture,” and provide the personalized representation they deserve to fully explore their options and pursue the best possible outcomes.

If you have questions about a criminal case in Los Angeles or any of the surrounding Counties of Southern California, you can feel confident when placing your trust in our capable team. Contact us to speak with an attorney during a FREE consultation.