Many people in California have wondered whether SB620 or Senate Bill 620 is retroactive. Ultimately, prior to the passage of this bill local judges did not have discretion when it came to dismissing sentencing enhancements decided by prosecutors in regards to felony cases involving the use of firearms. Since the passage of SB620 in October of last year, judges are now able to determine or decide whether the sentencing enhancement given an offender who is convicted of a felony crime involving a firearm is proper or fitting to the case at hand. However, this still doesn’t meet many individuals’ definitions of equality.
Enhancements in these types of cases meant those convicted may be sentenced to an additional ten or 20 years in prison, or even a life term depending on the circumstances of the case. While the new law does not give judges permission to completely do away with enhancements altogether, it does give judges at the local level the discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether the enhancement given an individual should be shorter or longer depending on the circumstances and facts of the crime. In simple terms, a judge may make the decision as to whether an offender who was given a 20 year sentence enhancement should have perhaps been given a ten year enhancement instead, or even life in prison in extremely serious felony cases involving the use of a firearm.
So is SB620 retroactive, meaning those who have received sentencing enhancements for felony crimes involving a firearm prior to the passage of this bill are eligible to have their enhancements reexamined? Yes, in situations where an offender’s sentence is enhanced by 20 years or a life term. While you may be eligible for less harsh sentencing enhancement, resentencing is generally reserved for those who have committed what are considered less serious felony offenses such as drug possession or low level theft. Not everyone has the opportunity to reduce an enhanced sentence, particularly those who have been found guilty of what are considered extremely serious or heinous crimes. Do all felons have access to equal protection? This is a question many criminal defense attorneys have pondered, and one that may be vigorously contested in the future.