Proposition 57, passed by California voters in November of 2016, has important implications for both the adult and juvenile criminal justice systems. Here is a brief summary of the law.
Prop 57 requires a judge, not a prosecutor, to decide whether juveniles should be tried in adult court. Previously, prosecutors could “direct file” in adult court certain cases involving serious crimes committed by minors . Now under Prop 57, prosecutors must file a motion to transfer juvenile cases to adult court and request a hearing for the juvenile court judge to decide whether or not this is appropriate. At the hearing, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove that the juvenile ‘s case should be transferred to adult court.
Prop 57 may affect juveniles whose cases were directly filed in adult court prior to the passage of Prop 57 and are pending trial there. It will depend on whether or not Prop 57 is interpreted by the courts to be retroactive. In some counties, District Attorney offices have already decided that it is and juveniles with pending adult cases are now being given hearings to determine if their cases should be returned to juvenile court for adjudication.
One of the stated purposes of Prop 57 was to reduce state prison populations. Previously, under determinate sentencing laws, state prison inmates convicted of felonies were not eligible for parole until they completed the full term of their sentence. With enhancements for factors such as use of firearms or gang involvement and prior “strikes,” these sentences could be much longer than the base sentence for the “primary offense.” Under Prop 57, prisoners convicted of “nonviolent offenses” are now eligible for parole when the full term for the “primary offense” is completed, exclusive of enhancements, consecutive sentences or alternative sentences.
Prop 57 also gives the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) authority to award credits for good behavior and approved rehabilitative or educational achievements.
What does this mean? How much earlier can an inmate be released?
This depends on how the CDRC interprets the law and what kind of regulations it passes to implement this new law. What is clear is that under Prop 57 an inmate who has been convicted of a non-violent felony will be able to apply for parole after completion of the full term for the primary offense. Here is an example: Mr. Brown is convicted in 2015 of a felony violation of recklessly evading a police officer (Vehicle Code Section 2800.2) . He has a prior strike and two prior prison convictions. The Judge imposes the maximum term for evasion, three years. His sentence, however, is for eight years: the three years is doubled because he has a prior strike (Penal Code Section 667(e)(1)) and two years are added for the two prison priors (Penal Code Section 667.5(b)). Under Prop 57, Mr. Brown can apply for parole after completion of three years of his sentence, possibly even sooner with credits for good conduct.
Can Prop 57 Help Me or my loved one?
In many cases, inmates who were facing lengthy prison sentences based on enhancements and prior convictions now may have an opportunity for early release. If you have a question about this new law and whether or not you or a loved one qualify for resentencing under the law, call Bay Area Criminal Attorney and Oakland Criminal Attorney Robbi A. Cook for a free consultation at (510)208-5051.