With the New Year just around the corner, it is a good time to review new criminal laws going into play here in California. With the changing climate in our State, this year will see a tremendous volume of new laws and policies.
We are not going to cover them all here, but we are noticing a positive trend for good people that find themselves entangled in the criminal justice system. We're going to cover some of the most compelling laws in "our world" that could affect you and your loved ones. Please do not hesitate to reach out regarding these or any other new statutes, rules, or forms that are in the pipeline for 2020. Our attorneys and staff are always here to help!
One of the most promising additions to the criminal justice system is a new pretrial diversion program for primary caregivers of minor children. Senate Bill 394 amends the Penal Code and enables the courts to establish a pretrial diversion program for primary caregivers. The diversion program would have to include components such as parenting classes, family and individual counseling, drug and alcohol treatment, mental health treatment, and anger management. Upon successful completion, an eligible primary caregiver charged with a "misdemeanor or a non-serious, non-violent felony" could have their criminal charges dismissed and arrest record sealed.
This could have sweeping ramifications for how we resolve cases. Much like the Mental Health Diversion program enacted in 2018, we will need to take time to implement this program. I am on the panel in Ventura County to deal with the implementation of the mental health program, and we are only recently getting some clarification as to how these cases are handled. This new rule for "primary caregivers" will take some time to implement but will be vital to good parents who made a mistake but still need to take care of their kids. Give us a call any time if you have questions or know of someone who could benefit from this kind of program.
Perhaps one of the most extensive attempts at bail reform in the country, Senate Bill 10, required California courts to implement a pretrial risk assessment program in place of the current bail system. Opponents to the law gathered enough signatures for a veto-referendum. On November 3, 2020, voters will decide whether to keep existing legislation (SB36), which would require establishing Pretrial Assessment Services and the use of risk assessment tools or to repeal it.
Proponents of the new law believe that it will reduce overcrowding in jails, allowing more non-violent offenders to be released on their own recognizance. Opponents of the new law argue that there is no clear funding for the establishment of Pretrial Services and question the transparency of risk assessment tools used for determining pretrial release.
I teach a class at Pepperdine Law School called Criminal Trial Preparation and Settlement. When we discussed bail reform last year, I predicted that we should not rely on the current state of the law. I told those students that very likely, some emergency legislation would be passed to correct this faulty attempt at bail reform. I'm glad to see a referendum by the voters, and I'm happy to discuss this in further detail with you.
Senate Bill 273 extends the statute of limitations for domestic violence crimes to five (5) years. The extension of the statute of limitations for violations of Penal Code Section 273.5 is in effect for all offenses committed on or after January 1, 2020, and for those committed prior to January 1, 2020, but whose statute of limitations had not yet elapsed.
We often get questions at Ridley Defense about what happens when we get charges rejected by the DA's office. On domestic violence cases, we have found that early intervention can help the prosecutor see both sides to a story and often makes them hesitate to file based solely on the police reports. However, the next question we always get is, "Does this mean that the case is closed?" Our answer is always hesitant. We explain to clients that if the prosecutor gets new evidence on the case, they can always file, UP UNTIL THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS. So this new law increases that period of uncertainty that our clients might have regarding how long the charges are hanging over their head. That's not necessary a bad thing, but it means they will need to be on their best behavior for this longer prior of time as often time old cases are re-considered in conjunction with a new incident.
This was just a summary of a few of the new laws that could affect you this coming year. This is a year that will see a significant amount of change, but again, these were the few that stood out for our practice. There are also significant changes being made to certain gun regulations (including new laws regarding Gun Violence Restraining Orders or GVROs), civilian subpoenas, DUI Cannabis cases and resentencing of old cannabis convictions. It's impossible to discuss all the new statutes in my typically short emails, but if you have specific questions about any of them please do not hesitate to contact me. I love discussing these topics and can even give continuing legal education credits for speaking to your group or law firm. I look forward to connecting with you again soon. Have a wonderful and SAFE 2020!