Victories in CA Legislature This Past Week (Updated 9/14/17)

Two more bills passed yesterday to reform California’s criminal (in)justice system:

AB 1008 (Ban the Box) – modeled on the SF and LA laws, restricts the use of criminal records in employment decisions.  Employers will no longer be able to ask about criminal background on a job application, or at any time before a tentative offer of employment has been made.

SB 393 will provide a clear legal pathway to sealing an arrest record from public view if the arrest did not result in a conviction, removing a serious barrier to employment and housing opportunities. Current record sealing procedures are ineffective and don’t provide a mechanism to properly seal arrests from people’s records.

California struck a blow against mass incarceration this week by passing two sentencing reform bills:

SB 180 (Mitchell and Lara) repeals the three-year sentence enhancement for certain prior drug convictions. The Repeal Ineffective Sentencing Enhancement (RISE) Act will reduce jail and prison overcrowding by amending the code section that doubles or triples the sentence for a nonviolent drug offense if a person has been previously convicted of a similar offense.

SB 620 (Bradford) allows judges to waive gun enhancements.  Like with many other sentencing schemes, prosecutors are more likely to charge people of color with mandatory sentencing enhancements than they are white people, even for the same crime. Until now, judges couldn’t strike the enhancement — which comes in the form of an additional sentence of 10 years, 20 years, or life — even if they didn’t think it fair.

These laws will offer some relief for kids caught up in the juvenile justice system:

AB 935 (Stone) establishes clear timelines and processes for the determination of juvenile competency in court proceedings and the evaluation and delivery of remediation services for juveniles. It clearly lays out who must provide the mental health treatment for remediation and puts a cap on how long youth can stay in juvenile halls. It requires the arrangement of alternative mental health treatment and remediation services administered by county mental health departments.

SB 190 (Mitchell and Lara) ends the harmful, unlawful, and costly assessment and collection of administrative fees against families with youth in the juvenile system. This is an important step in ensuring that justice-involved youth and their families, often the most vulnerable families in our communities, have the resources and support they need to thrive.

SB 312 (Skinner) restores record sealing for all justice-involved youth by allowing those with serious offenses to petition the court to have their record sealed. Record sealing provides young people with a fresh start and allows them to pursue education, employment, and housing opportunities without the burden of an offense history.

More people will be able to drive legally in California with this new law:

AB 503 (Lackey) requires cities that want to utilize car registration as a collection method for parking tickets to offer a payment plan that is affordable to low income persons and to offer a sliding scale on the cost of the ticket. So long as a person is on a payment plan the DMV shall allow the car to be registered.

This new diversion law will protect immigrants

AB 208 (Eggman) In California, when someone pleads guilty to drug possession but completes court-ordered drug treatment, they can have their conviction dismissed. But federal law does not recognize that and creates a two-tiered system for U.S. citizens and immigrants who still face deportation even after they’ve completed their treatment. AB 208 fixes this problem by allowing people to complete their treatment before entering a plea for minor drug offenses.

 

All of these bills will need to be signed by the governor to become law.

It’s a good idea to thank the bills’ authors on their victories and especially your representatives, if they voted right.

Also, several other important criminal justice reform bills may be coming to a vote before the legislative season ends this week.  We will keep you posted.