New Year, new laws: Changes to California criminal law in 2015

A slew of new laws went into effect on January 1, 2015. These laws impact everything from how many sick days an employer is required to provide employees to the use of wiretaps in a human trafficking investigation.

A recent article in the LA Times notes that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown signed 930 bills into law and vetoed 143. With so many bills going into effect, it may be difficult to know which ones are important.

Laws most likely to impact criminal charges in California

One way to determine the impact of these laws is to break them down into categories. Some of the laws that are most likely to impact criminal charges include:

  • Narcotics. The sentence for possessing crack cocaine for sale is reduced to mirror the sentence used for powder cocaine. The previous sentence for crack was three to five years imprisonment. The new law, SB 1010 Cocaine Base: penalties, changes the sentence to two to four years. This change will close the gap between crack and powder cocaine and address the "disparity critics have long assailed as being unjustified and racially charged," according to a recent article in The Sacramento Bee.
  • Juvenile records. A new law will make juvenile records automatically sealed upon completion of all court-imposed orders.
  • Delinquency. Those who are accused of failing to obey a judge's order to attend school can no longer be punished with confinement in a juvenile detention facility or juvenile hall.
  • Sex offenders. A mandatory prison sentence of 180 days was implemented for those who are paroled sex offenders and fail to report for fitting of a GPS monitoring device or who render the device inoperable.
  • Teacher firings. School districts can more easily fire teachers that are accused of sex crimes. This allows the district to expedite the process for terminating an educator's employment.
  • DNA testing. A new law allows imprisoned felons to get a DNA test if it is relevant to their case. This replaces the older, more stringent standard, requiring the test would prove innocence.

These are just a handful of the changes that could impact criminal charges in California during 2015.

Importance of legal counsel

Those who face criminal charges are wise to take the charges seriously. The criminal prosecution landscape is constantly changing, as outlined by the updates mentioned above. As a result, those who are charged with a crime should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer. This legal professional will be able to discuss your options, possible defenses and work to better ensure that your rights are protected.

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