/ 1.28.21

New Sentencing Laws in Place After George Gascón Releases Special Directive 20-14

Written by: Doug Ridley

Newly Elected DA Issues Sweeping Reform to Los Angeles Sentencing Policies

Shortly after taking office, Los Angeles’s newly elected District Attorney, George Gascón, issued a number of special directives aimed at making changes to everything from new operating guidelines to cases that the office will no longer prosecute and broad reform to sentencing guidelines. The new charging and sentencing policies took effect on Tuesday, December 8, 2020.

At Ridley Defense, we are committed to providing you court updates and policy changes that may affect your case or pending charges. Attorney Doug Ridley is a former prosecutor who proudly serves alongside Los Angeles Superior Court presiding judges on the San Fernando Valley Bar Association Bench Bar Committee. When away from court, he teaches Criminal Trial Preparation and Settlement at Pepperdine School of Law. 

If you have any questions regarding the recent special directives or any other sentencing reform, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (805) 208-1866.

New Los Angeles Sentencing Policies

Special Directive 20-14 made sweeping changes to the office’s sentencing guidelines. As outlined in the directive, the new sentencing guidelines are aimed at helping thousands of people serving lengthy prison sentences based on outdated policies. 

Through the directives issued, the new DA hopes to remedy some of the “inequities inherent in our system of justice.” The new Resentencing Policy applies to all offices of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Length of Sentence Review

Overall the new sentencing guidelines are expected to affect tens of thousands of cases. The directive particularly focuses on disadvantaged groups that are serving prison sentences that are longer than necessary.

In an effort to reduce the number of people serving excessive prison sentences, the DA has committed to immediately re-evaluating and considering resentencing for people who have served 15 years or more in prison. 

Changes to Sentence Enhancement Policies

The Special Directive also calls for changes to the office’s policy on sentence enhancements for open and pending cases. Namely, the office (as discussed in Special Directive 20-08)  will either join in a Defendant’s motion to strike alleged sentence enhancements or may move to dismiss all alleged sentence enhancements.

Additional Sentencing Considerations for Open/Pending Cases

In addition to profound changes regarding the office’s policy on sentence enhancements, the new sentencing guidelines call for the withdrawal of any opposition and new sentence of any case pending resentencing or sentence recall consideration where a defendant is serving a sentence that is higher than what they would have received today.

Furthermore, the directive allows for more people to seek relief under Penal Code 1170.95 and gives deputy district attorneys fewer avenues to deny relief unless agreed to by the Head Deputy and the District Attorney or his designee.

Comprehensive Review of Cases

The total number of cases that may be impacted by the new guidelines is estimated to be between 20,000 and 30,000. These tens of thousands of cases are believed to be out-of-policy sentences.

Of these cases, the resentencing unit will prioritize expedited review where a person:

  • Has served 15 years or more;
  • Is 60 years of age or older;
  • Is at an enhanced risk of COVID-19;
  • Has been recommended for resentencing by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR);
  • Is a criminalized survivor;
  • Was 17 years or younger at the time of the offense and prosecuted as an adult.

Goals of Resentencing Policies

The Los Angeles County District Attorney will use its broad discretion under Penal Code section 1170(d)(1) “to recommend recall and resentencing” in an effort to “review and remediate every sentence that does not comport with the new Sentencing, Enhancement, and Juvenile Policies.”

In order to promote the goal of eliminating sentence disparities and promote uniform sentencing, filing deputies will be asked to assist the “Resentencing Court” in providing post-conviction factors that support resentencing. 

These factors include supplying: 

  • Mitigation evidence;
  • CDCR disciplinary records;
  • Record of rehabilitation;
  • Evidence of positive programming during incarceration;
  • Evidence that age, times served, or diminished physical condition may have reduced risk for future violence;
  • Changed circumstances since original sentencing;
  • Post-release reentry plans including family and community support

Changes to Parole Hearing Policies

Noticeable changes will be coming to lifer parole hearings, as well. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office will no longer attend parole hearings. It will support in writing the grant of parole for people who have reached their Minimum Eligible Parole Date (MEPD), their Youth Parole Eligible Date (YEPD), or their Elderly Parole Date (EPD).

As noted in the directive, the change in policy is in accordance with Penal Code section 3041, which states that there is a presumption that people should be released on parole if they have reached their MEPD, YEPD, or EPD. However, if the CDCR determines that the petitioner represents a “high” risk for recidivism, then a deputy district attorney may “take a neutral position on the grant of parole.”

New Juvenile Directives

The final policy discussed in the directive makes a considerable alteration to how the office handles youth offenders. People who are 17 or younger at the time of their offense will no longer be transferred to adult court. Instead, youths will remain in the youth system “until they are mature enough to reenter society.”

Contact Ridley Defense for More Information

The nine special directives issued by the Los Angeles District Attorney affect a large portion of cases and may mean that you are eligible for resentencing. Because of the considerable policy changes that were made by these orders, it is imperative to discuss your case as soon as possible with an experienced attorney. 

For over twenty years, Attorney Doug Ridley has been helping families navigate the criminal court system. As a former Ventura County Deputy District Attorney, he knows how to “talk prosecutor.” His unique understanding of how prosecutors work and think enables him and the Ridley Defense team to achieve favorable outcomes for clients. 

Every member of the Ridley Defense team is a highly-respected member of the bar that has dedicated themselves to the ethical, passionate defense of their clients. If you would like to discuss these reforms or are facing criminal charges, contact our office today at (805) 208-1888.

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