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25 New Criminal Justice Reform Bills Now Law in California

hand in jail
By Andrew Leonatti on October 14, 2019 10:00 AM

Criminal justice reform efforts continue to gather momentum across the country. Lawmakers from both parties are seeing the value in creating a justice system that allows people to move on with their lives more easily.

California took a huge leap into that future when Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a package of 25 criminal justice reform measures into law last week. Several of the laws roll back the "tough on crime" approach that was popular across the U.S. during the 90s.

"California led the way in building new prisons and exploding prison populations. As a result, taxpayers have paid dearly, and communities have been torn apart," said state Sen. Scott Wiener.

The New Laws

The bills cover areas such as release and reentry to society, protecting victims, protecting juvenile offenders, and reducing sentencing disparities.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Removing the automatic one-year sentencing enhancement for each prior felony jail term on one's record
  • Removing mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level drug crimes
  • Automatic record clearing for certain low-level offenses, which will make it unnecessary for people to spend time and money petitioning the court
  • Allowing people with certain felony convictions on their records to serve on juries
  • Creating a pretrial diversion program for people facing charges who are the primary caregiver to a child under 18
  • Making it easier for juvenile offenders to return their case to juvenile court
  • Prohibiting the practice of charging inmates co-pays for medical visits
  • Prohibiting law enforcement from using facial recognition software in conjunction with body camera usage
  • Requiring law enforcement to submit rape kits for analysis within 20 days

What This Means

Newsom said the new laws will "give hope to those that have earned a second chance in our communities."

Activists praised the developments, saying that the changes to sentencing laws will reduce recidivism and make it easier for people to rejoin society after serving their sentences. Automatic record clearance will make it easier for people to find work and housing.

However, implementing these measures will take time, and many do not go into effect overnight. And it is unknown if any changes to sentencing laws will apply to people already in prison. That means it is still essential that you receive the right guidance from a criminal defense attorney if you are arrested.

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