California Proposition 57 Changes the Way Juveniles Can Be Charged and Allows for Early Release for Non-Violent Offenders
In an effort to repair serious issues within the criminal justice system, California Proposition 57 was passed in 2016. Also known as the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, it makes several essential changes to the law that can have an impact on those already convicted and sentenced for certain crimes. Contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857 if you are in need of a legal opinion on your options, or the options of your loved one, under Prop 57.
Proposition 57 Made Changes to How a Prosecutor Could Charge a Juvenile
Before Prop 57 was passed, a prosecutor could decide to charge a juvenile in adult court by charging them with specific serious felonies – namely rape and murder. The prosecutor could unilaterally decide that a specific case would most appropriately be adjudicated in adult court.
Previously, under the prior law (known as Proposition 21), prosecutors could unilaterally determine whether a juvenile case was appropriate for adjudication in adult court based on the severity of the offense. How often did this happen? According to one report, more than 10,000 juveniles were tried as adults in California since 2003 – including more than 7,000 that were charged as adults by prosecutors who had no oversight in doing so.
In February of 2018, the California Supreme Court held that Prop 57 applies to every juvenile case that had not reached final judgment when the change in the law occurred. Since the passage of the Proposition, prosecutors must obtain approval from a judge before prosecuting a juvenile as an adult. The judge is required to consider several things with weighing in on these requests:
- Reports from the probation department
- The juvenile’s history
- The criminal charges they are facing
Cases that had already been filed in adult courts prior to the passage of Proposition 57 were transferred back to juvenile court.
Proposition 57 Allows Non-Violent Felons to Apply to Be Released Early
Prop 57 also makes people convicted of specific non-violent crimes eligible for parole after they have completed the base term of their sentence. In many cases, a person will end up charged not just for the crime they are accused of, such as robbery, but also based on enhancements, such as using a firearm during the crime. These enhancements can add years to a person’s sentence.
Thanks to the passage of Prop 57, a person can apply for parole after they have completed the sentence for the base offense. Note that this does not guarantee anything – it only makes these people eligible for parole. The final decision is still made by the California parole board.
This can have a significant impact. For example, if a person discharged a firearm while committing a felony, and it resulted in great bodily injury, they could face a 25-year enhancement in addition to whatever they are sentenced to for the actual felony.
Prop 57 Changes the Way Custody Credits are Calculated
Before Proposition 57, incarcerated individuals could receive “good time” credit against their sentences if they followed the rules and guidelines of the facility in which they were being held. They could also earn “work time” credit if they completed assigned tasks as required. Additional credits could be earned for other conduct, such as participating in self-help programs, earning a college degree, or taking part in volunteer service.
Thanks to Prop 57, an incarcerated individual can earn additional credits in those categories depending on their classification. Non-violent offenders have the option to earn significantly reduced sentences if they work toward rehabilitation in the programs named above. For some, it could mean the reduction of their total prison stay by two-thirds.