The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and within the US, California hosts the second largest prison population behind Texas. Mass incarceration has led to overcrowding, which in turn has resulted in increased health risks and decreased psychological welfare of inmates. In recent years, California’s legislature has worked hard to correct the devastating results of the state’s traditional tough on crimes policies, which have led to excessively punitive sentences and have affected and continue to affect poor people and minorities disproportionately. Long sentences have not only failed to increase public safety, but have also had a damaging effect on vulnerable individuals, especially those who have committed their offenses as minors.
In 2018, Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2942, which went into effect on January 1, 2019. Prior to AB 2942, there were no legal vehicles for district attorneys to revisit and re-evaluate sentences and, when warranted in the pursuit of justice, to recommend a sentence recall and reduction. Nowadays, due to AB 2942, local district attorneys have been given the discretionary power to revisit cases to determine whether the further confinement of inmates facing overly prolonged incarceration is in the interest of justice, and if it is not, to recommend a case for resentencing.
AB 2942 does not provide for any exclusions. That means that cases involving any type of offense or sentence are potentially eligible for recommendation for recall of a sentence. Furthermore, the law does not provide for any requirements of time served. Notably, this law could potentially provide relief for immigrant defendants facing immigration consequences based on their sentences, by having them reduced to non-deportable ones.
Once the district attorney makes a recommendation, the court has discretionary power to determine whether to grant a recall hearing. If a court makes a favorable determination to hear a case, it will schedule a sentence hearing and will impose a new sentence. The court has a wide range authority to look at many different factors in determining the new sentence, including post-conviction factors.
Particularly, the law instructs the courts to consider the disciplinary and rehabilitation records of defendants; evidence of age, physical condition and time served to determine whether the risk of future violence has been reduced; evidence of changed circumstances that would render a continued incarceration a miscarriage of justice; and finally, the court can consider new laws passed that would result in a shorter sentence, including the invalidation of certain enhancements.
Upon reviewing all the evidence and arguments, the court will make a determination for a new sentence. Importantly, the court cannot impose a new sentence that is longer than the original sentence. Moreover, the shorter in duration sentence must account for time served under the original sentence.
There are a number of alternatives to direct appeal, and AB 2942 provides a way to reduce your original sentence. The new attitude in California towards criminal justice reform is a bright light for people serving excessive sentences and has given incarcerated individuals the opportunity to gain early release. Given the huge impact that a resentencing hearing could have on a defendant’s life, it is vital that you hire an experienced appeals attorney who specializes in post-conviction matters. At the Justice Firm, we work hard for all of our clients, and hiring the right attorney ensures that your case is presented in the most convincing way possible and will show why a resentencing in your case would serve the interests of justice.
If you have questions about AB 2942 and your eligibility, contact our California appeals attorneys today for a case evaluation locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or click here.