California’s Three New Criminal Laws : Propositions 34, 35, and 36
California has a Trio of New Criminal Laws
Many Californians still do not know about the results of the three initiatives (November 2012) election that pertain to California criminal law. Two of them passed, and when they go into effect on January 1, 2013 will have profound changes in the criminal law.
1. Proposition 34 (Failed)
This proposition would have repealed the California Death Penalty and converted all current death sentences to sentences of Life Without Parole. The initiative failed by fewer than 5% points. This initiative would have saved California voters millions of dollars and diverted money used in death penalty prosecution and defense to law enforcement. Few Californians know that keeping a person on death row generally costs the public more than ten times the cost of a life sentence. Further the death penalty process is very long and more clients who die on death row die of old age or disease than execution. It was a very unwise decision by the California electorate not to pass Proposition 34, even in spite of the fact that the saved money would have been diverted to law enforcement instead of schools, drug rehabilitation programs—social services that would help individuals from committing the crimes that result in their eventually committing a crime that results in a death sentence. There is still much ignorance among Californians regarding the impact of the death penalty. California has maintained its death penalty after election night.
2. Proposition 35 (Passed) Revision to California Penal Code Section 236.1 False Imprisonment and Trafficking in Minors
Just another proposition to take away the rights of an accused. Now an individual who is involved in certain sex trafficking crimes with minors, i.e. commercially filming her faces increased penalties and also cannot raise a mistake of fact regarding her age. In other words if the minor is seventeen but acts like she is eighteen and shows fake identification to the accused, he can no longer defend himself by indicating that he had an honest and reasonable belief that she was older. How unfair!!! The legislature also increased in general the penalties under Penal Code Section 236.1 , up to twenty years per act, and prohibited the defense from admitting prior instances of the minor’s sexual activity. The protection of minors is paramount but many sixteen and seventeen year olds have willingly been involved in commercial sex activities for financial gain, and this law unfairly and severely penalizes their adult associates.
3. Proposition 36 (Passed) Repeals Parts of California’s Arcane “Three Strikes Law” Penal Code Section 1170.12
California has 8,000 prisoners currently serving life terms for committing a Third Strike.
What the voters finally figured out is that the third strike could be any strike including a “petty theft with a prior.” A version of this amendment narrowly was defeated several years earlier when the then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man certainly not known for his honesty and high moral character, ran a serious of ads indicating that changes in this law would free violent criminals.
What this law does is provide what should have always been the law—the third felony must be a serious or violent felony instead of a felony such as petty theft with a prior (shoplifting) or a drug possession defense.
The most negative aspect of this law is that it still allows juvenile adjudications to be counted as prior convictions. I thought juvenile adjudications were about reforming the minor and weren’t even supposed to be convictions. The law also allows the more serious drug offenses with possessions of large quantities to count as a serious qualifying offense under Health and Safety Code Sections 11370.4 and 11379.8.
The big surprise in this law is that it allows individuals who have been unfairly incarcerated to a twenty five year to life term to petition the court for a reduction of their sentence even though they have already been sentenced and are serving their term. There are no statistics on how many inmates qualify for this relief but since there are 8,000 sentenced under the Three Strikes Law, a conservative estimate would be 25% or 2,000.
At the Law Offices of Russell S. Babcock we are the experts in drug crimes. Attorney Russell Babcock is prepared to help you file a petition and seek re-sentencing if you qualify. The new law is complicated so the work should be done by a qualified attorney. Call today and set a consultation to see if you qualify for a reduction of your sentence.