New California Laws Aimed to Safeguard Youth and Elderly

Inside the dome of the California State Capitol Building

On October 11th, 2017 California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a whole host of legislative bills that rewrite how some of our criminal justice processes function. These newly minted laws aim to protect youths from life-long stigma, safeguard their rights, review grievously long sentences that have been handed down to children, and others. There is also one bill specifically aimed at elderly, long-term inmates.

Here is a quick rundown …

AB 529: Sealing of juvenile records

Requires that juvenile records be sealed when original petition is dismissed or not sustained in court. It also places time constraints and a higher standard of cause in order to open a sealed juvenile record.

AB 1308: Youth Offender Parole extended to include transition-age youth up to age 26

Extends through age 25 a special parole process known as “Youth Offender Parole,” which gives an earlier parole hearing and requires the Board of Parole Hearings to pay particular attention to the fact that someone was young at the time of their crime.

AB 1448: Elder Parole

This bill establishes the Elderly Parole Program, for the purpose of reviewing the parole suitability of inmates who are 60 years of age or older and who have served a minimum of 25 years of continuous incarceration.

SB 180: Ends mandatory drug enhancement

Repeals the three-year mandatory sentencing enhancement for prior drug convictions that are added to any new conviction.

SB 190: No more fees for parents of youth in the juvenile system

Determines that many of the judicially ordered fees typically charge to defendants cannot be assessed on defendants, or the parents of defendants, under the age of 21.

SB 312: Record sealing

Authorizes courts to seal records for offenses committed by children 14 years or older.

SB 393: Record sealing

This bill authorizes a person who has suffered an arrest that did not result in a conviction to petition the court to have his or her arrest sealed. The bill provides that a person who is eligible for sealing is entitled, as a matter of right, to that sealing except under special circumstances.

SB 394: No more children sentenced to die in prison

This bill makes a person convicted of offense before he or she was 18 years of age for which a life sentence without the possibility of parole was imposed eligible for parole under a youth parole hearing after his or her 25th year of incarceration.

SB 395: Children protected in police custody

This bill requires that youths 15 years of age or younger consult with legal counsel prior to waiving their Miranda Rights and that any information gleaned from youths who were not allowed the legal consultation are not usable in any way. This consultation can not be waived by police or the youth under any circumstances.

SB 620: Judicial discretion for firearm enhancements

Restores the ability of judges to not include a firearm enhancement in a criminal sentence, when doing so is in the interest of justice.

SB 625: Honorable discharge for youth

Maintains the existing program for allowing local authorities to clear the record of youth with juvenile records who complete parole and earn an “honorable discharge.”

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These bills are just the first step a road toward a fair and just system that addresses public safety as well as social equity such as what we discussed at our Breaking Barriers Community Forum. We have a long road ahead, and a lot more legislation on the horizon, but it is all worth it to create stronger, safer families and communities.