Category Archives: sentencing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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SCR 48: Resolution to Reform Felony Murder Rule

SCR 48 – Senate Concurrent Resolution

SCR 48 is a senate concurrent resolution passed on September 22, 2017. It recognized the need for statutory reform to more equitably sentence offenders according to their involvement in the crime.

Although SCR 48 did not make any changes to existing law, it laid the foundation for Senate Bill 1437 – Accomplice Liability for Felony Murder.

Senate Bill 1437 is making its first pass through the California state legislature. After the Committee on Public Safety approved the bill by a vote of 6-1, it was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. A meeting before the Appropriations Committee is currently set for May 7, 2018.

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SCR 48 – Punishment Should Match the Crime

Currently there are 2 laws – felony murder and aiding and abetting – that impose a punishment that is disproportionate to the criminal activity. SCR 48 recognizes that it is fundamentally unfair and in violation of basic principles of individual culpability to punish a person for the unforeseen results of another’s action.

SCR 48 – Overcrowded Prisons are Expensive

According to SCR 48, California continues to house inmates in numbers well beyond its maximum capacity at an average of 130% of capacity. WASCO, for example, is 2,000 inmates over the designed maximum capacity. Incarceration of an inmate in California costs taxpayers $70,836 per year. There are currently approximately 118,000 inmates incarcerated in California.

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“Malice” is a deliberate unlawful intention to take away the life of another. Malice is required for a conviction for first or second degree murder, except in the case of felony murder.

Felony Murder

Under felony-murder, a defendant does not have to intend to kill anyone, nor commit the homicidal act, to be sentenced to first-degree murder. A defendant can be sentenced to first-degree murder even if the killing was unintentional, accidental, or negligent.

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First-Degree Felony Murder

A conviction for first-degree murder results in a sentence of 25 years to life.

To be convicted of first-degree felony murder, the prosecutor only needs to prove that the killing was committed in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate a felony specified in Penal Code Section 189.

Those felonies are arson, rape, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, train wrecking, torture, sodomy, lewd act on a child under 14, oral copulation, and rape by instrument.

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Second-Degree Felony Murder

A conviction for second-degree murder results in a sentence of 15 years to life.

To be convicted of second-degree felony, the prosecutor only needs to prove that the killing was committed in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate an “inherently dangerous felony.”

Inherently dangerous felonies include but are not limited to discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, manufacturing methamphetamine, maliciously burning a car, and possessing a bomb in a residential area.

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Proposition 47 Early Release From Prison

Proposition 47 – Reducing Charges

Proposition 47 reduces the punishment for certain felony drug and property offense charges under $950 to a misdemeanor. It does not apply to registered sex offenders and people with prior convictions for serious or violent crimes.

Re-sentencing For Inmates

Prop 47 permits re-sentencing for people currently serving a prison sentence, or with prior felony convictions. Charges eligible to be reduced to misdemeanors are listed below.

Proposition 47

Must File A Petition

No one is automatically released from prison under Proposition 47. Instead you must petition the court to reduce your charges and re-sentence you.

Eligible inmates who petition the court are required to be resentenced unless the court finds an unreasonable risk to public safety.

Risk To Public Safety

When determining the risk to public safety, the court may consider the offender’s criminal history, the types of crimes committed and when they occurred, the extent of injury to victims, the length of prior prison commitments, the inmate’s disciplinary and rehabilitation records while incarcerated, and any other relevant evidence.

What Is The Deadline To Petition?

Your petition must be filed with the court before November 4, 2022.

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How Do I File A Petition?

Under Prop 47, in order to petition for a reduction of a crime to a misdemeanor, you must first obtain a copy of your criminal record. Next, you must obtain a petition form for reclassification. Most counties have created petition forms that can be found here.

For counties that have not created petition forms, contact the local courthouse and ask which form to use.

Once the petition is complete, send one copy to the District Attorney’s Office in the county where you were convicted. The other copy is sent to the Superior Court in the county where you were convicted.

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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
  • Embezzlement of $950 or less – Penal Code 503 (People v. Warmington)
  • Joyriding of a vehicle worth $950 or less – Vehicle Code 10851 (People v. Page)
  • Attempting to cash a check worth $950 or less – Penal Code 459.5 (People v. Gonzales)
  • Theft of Account Information of $950 or less – Penal Code 484e(d) (People v. Romanowski)

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