Criminal Justice Reform: Reduced Probation Maximums & Pretrial Diversion Programs

Assembly Bill 1950 and Assembly Bill 3234 will go into effect in California on January 1, 2021. AB 1950 places caps on the maximum terms probation courts can impose, while AB 3234 allows judges to decide whether misdemeanor offenders should be placed in pretrial diversion programs. Below, we explain the details and benefits of these new laws.

AB 1950

AB 1950 reduces how long a person convicted of a misdemeanor or felony can be placed on probation. Under AB 1950, the longest a person can be under supervised release for a misdemeanor conviction is 1 year instead of 3 years. It is important to note that there is an exception to AB 1950. If the statutory maximum sentence for the misdemeanor is more than 3 years, then the court has the option to place the defendant on probation for more than 1 year, but no more than the stated term of incarceration for the crime. The maximum term of probation for felonies will drop from 5 years to 2 years under AB 1950.

AB 1950 does not decrease the probation period for the following crimes:

  • Financial crimes where the offenses involve more than $25,000
  • Any felony or misdemeanor offense “that includes specific probation lengths within its provisions”
  • Certain violent felonies, such as murder, rape, and mayhem

In 2018, the Chief Probation Officers of California reported that 356,000 people were on probation. REFORM Alliance states that it costs $4,400 per year to keep people on probation, while the state pays $2 billion each year to re-incarcerate probation violators. Probation caps will help reduce government spending and keep more people out of jail for small infractions.

AB 3234

AB 3234 gives California judges the discretion to place misdemeanor offenders in pretrial diversion programs, even if prosecutors object. The judge can also impose conditions and terms they deem necessary for the situation. If the defendant fails to comply with the conditions and terms, then the court can end their pretrial diversion program and resume criminal proceedings.

The pretrial diversion program is an option for first-time misdemeanor offenders unless they committed the following:

The main benefit of AB 3234 is that it reduces the jail population by allowing first-time misdemeanor offenders a chance to avoid incarceration. Additionally, people placed in a pretrial diversion program must complete treatment and courses that are designed to rehabilitate them instead of being held in custody. Lastly, successful completion of court-ordered conditions results in the case being dismissed, so the arrest or conviction won’t be on their record.

If you have been arrested for a felony or misdemeanor crime, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP to discuss the details of your case. Call (800) 462-7160 today to request a consultation with our criminal defense team.