Senate Bill 620 Relaxes California’s Firearm Enhancements

senate bill 620

Senate Bill 620 Signed into Law

Senate Bill 620 was signed into law on October 11, 2017. The law gives judges the authority to strike or dismiss a firearm enhancement at sentencing. Judges may dismiss or strike enhancements if it is “in the interests of justice.”

What is an Enhancement?

An enhancement adds time to the length of a prison or jail sentence. In the case of firearm enhancements, as much as 25 years to life can be added to a sentence.

senate bill 620

California Firearm Enhancements

The firearm enhancements affected by Senate Bill 620 are Penal Code Sections 12022.5 and 12022.53.

Penal Code Section 12022.5

Additional 3, 4, or 10 years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony or attempted felony (unless use of a firearm is an element of the felony).

Additional 5, 6, or 10 years for use of an assault weapon or machine gun during the commission of a felony or attempted felony.

Penal Code Section 12022.53

Additional 10 years for use of a firearm during the commission of a Specified Felony, even if the firearm is not loaded or operable.

Additional 20 years for discharging a firearm during a Specified Felony.

Additional 25 years to life for causing death or great bodily injury using a firearm.

senate bill 620

Specified Felony

Specified Felonies include murder, mayhem, kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, rape, and all felonies punishable by death or life in prison.

For a complete list see Penal Code Section 12022.53.

Judicial Discretion

Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 620, judges were required to sentence defendants to additional prison or jail time upon a jury finding that a firearm was used during a felony.

Judges now have the option to strike firearm enhancements if doing so would be in the Interests of Justice.

Interests of Justice

The “Interests of Justice” is whatever a judge determines to be fair and equitable.

What is a Firearm?

A firearm is:

  • A device.
  • Designed to be used as a weapon.
  • Shoots a projectile through a barrel by explosion or other form of combustion.

senate bill 620

What is an Assault Weapon?

“Assault weapons” are semiautomatic firearms listed under Penal Code Section 30510, et seq.

What is a Machine Gun?

Machine guns are any weapon that automatically shoots more than one shot by a single function of the trigger.

Machine guns also includes any parts used in converting a weapon into a machine gun AND guns that are readily convertible to machine guns.

criminal defenseContact

(805) 635-7766


Can Police Search if They Smell Marijuana?

Can Police Search Me if They Smell Marijuana?

With some exceptions, police may not search a suspect or his/her property solely because they smell marijuana.

Proposition 64, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, was enacted November 9, 2016. It prohibits a search based on legal possession or use of marijuana.

In order to conduct a search, police must have reason to believe the marijuana possession or use is illegal or that the suspect is engaged in some other illegal activity (In Re D.W.).

What Can Police Do if They Smell Marijuana?

Police MAY investigate further based on the smell or issue a notice to appear in court. Below is a discussion of some scenarios where police can arrest a suspect when they smell marijuana.

smell marijuana

Driving Under the Influence

Driving a vehicle while “under the influence” of marijuana is illegal under Vehicle Code Section 23152(f).

Police may arrest the driver if they have probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of marijuana.

Illegal Marijuana Activity

Police may arrest a suspect if they have probable cause to believe the suspect is illegally using, transporting, cultivating, selling, possessing marijuana, or manufacturing concentrates. See Health & Safety Code Sections:

smell marijuana

Search Incident to Lawful Arrest (“Sila”)

Police may search a suspect who in the process of being arrested or has been placed under arrest.

Police may search a suspect and the suspect’s immediate area for weapons or evidence that can be concealed or destroyed (Chimel v. California).

Probable Cause

Probable cause means law enforcement is aware of facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person is guilty of a crime (Brinegar v. United States).

smell marijuana

Probable Cause for Marijuana-related Crimes

Common facts and circumstances used by law enforcement to support probable cause include:

    • Smoke or paraphernalia in car.
    • Smell marijuana smoke on hands or breath.
    • Strong smell of marijuana in vehicle.
    • Appearance and actions of driver.
    • Failed field sobriety test(s) (ok to refuse).
    • Suspect confesses to illegal conduct.
    • Pay/owe sheets, scales, large quantities of money.
    • Driver is sole occupant and/or car full of luggage.

criminal defenseContact

(805) 635-7766

Prop 47 Case Law Update

What is Prop 47?

Prop 47 makes certain drug and property offenses under $950 a misdemeanor.

prop 47

Prop 47 Case Law

Prop 47 was passed on November 4, 2014. Since then, courts have ruled that the following charges should also be misdemeanors:

Proposition 47 Does Not Apply to the Following Charges

prop 47

Proposition 47 Applies to the Following Charges:

  • Shoplifting – Penal Code 459 – Shoplifting
  • Forgery – Penal Code 470-476
  • Fraud/Bad Checks of $950 or less – Penal Code 476a
  • Grand Theft of $950 or less – Penal Code 487
  • Petty Theft/Shoplifting of $950 or less – Penal Code 484, 484/666
  • Possession of Methamphetamine – Health & Safety 11377
  • Possession of Controlled Substance – Health & Safety 11350
  • Possession of Concentrated Cannabis – Health and Safety 11357(a)
  • Receiving Stolen Property – Penal Code 496

prop 47

Prop 47 is Retroactive

Proposition 47 applies to cases prior to November 4, 2014. Inmates must file a petition in the county courthouse where they were convicted. The petition forms vary by county and can be accessed here.

criminal defenseContact

(805) 635-7766