Happy New Year! California passed many new laws this year, and our criminal laws are no different. We want to focus on new laws in these three different areas: mental health, driving safe, and protecting kids.
At Ridley Defense, we passionately advocate for clients with mental health challenges. Sometimes, someone with a mental health issue crosses over into the criminal justice system. We successfully advocate for our clients and convince the court to place them on mental health diversion, which results in mental health treatment rather than incarceration. A new law in 2023 changes the standards for access to the mental health diversion program:
Diagnosis or treatment within the past five years: This aspect of the qualifications means that instead of clients paying for a new diagnosis to get into the program, we rely on any diagnosis or treatment within the past five years in order to qualify.
Additionally, instead of the “court being satisfied”, the new statute deletes this language and states that if our client has been diagnosed within the past five years, they are eligible.
Significant factor in the offense: We called this the “nexus” between the mental health challenge and the charged offense. This was where the court had the most discretion to deny a client. The new language states the court shall find that it was a significant factor UNLESS there is clear and convincing evidence that it was NOT. This shifts the burden to the prosecutor and to the court to find evidence to refute our application, rather than putting the burden on our clients to prove it.
These two changes to our mental health diversion program will allow more of our clients to get treatment and to avail themselves of this wonderful program. This change in the law will make a huge difference to clients with mental health issues that come into the criminal justice system.
California also prioritizes driving safely, creating new punishments for people who drive recklessly and someone dies as a result. The vehicular manslaughter statutes in California provide that when a driver kills someone, the case can be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The issue becomes whether it is simple negligence or a simple mistake, versus gross negligence or a big mistake.
California noted some new categories that constitute gross negligence:
The changes in the law make the stakes even higher for someone who drives recklessly and causes the death of another. Drivers can prevent these tragic cases by staying away from these “Fast and Furious” spectacles and just slowing down.
We defend a lot of kids who, in doing “stupid stuff,” cross the line into the criminal justice system. California passed several protections for juveniles in the system, recognizing the need for rehabilitation and humane conditions while in custody.
Free phone calls – the state is no longer allowed to profit from charging fees for phone calls. Detention centers have to provide kids access to phone calls free of charge.
Credit for time on electronic monitoring – the court often puts juveniles on an ankle bracelet or electronic monitoring. This change provides that the minor gets credit toward custody time for any time on electronic monitoring.
The Youth Bill of Rights continues to provide that confined youth have the right to a safe, healthy, and clean environment; to be free from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse; to receive adequate and healthy meals and snacks, and clean water; to receive adequate medical, dental, vision, and mental health care; to not be searched for the purposes of harassment or humiliation; and other rights relating to contact with family, making and receiving telephone calls, exercise and recreation, religious services, quality education, etc.
Changes this year add a number of additional rights, such as adequate and timely reproductive care; clean undergarments on a daily basis; new underwear that fits; clothing, grooming, and hygiene products that “respect” a minor’s culture, ethnicity, and gender identity and expression; access to leisure reading, letter writing, and entertainment; access to postsecondary academic and career technical education courses and programs; access to computer technology and the Internet for the purpose of education; and information about parental rights.
As always, we are available to answer any questions you may have about these new laws or any others that were passed this year for the criminal justice system. We remain committed to staying up to date and continuing to educate our community on criminal law.