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Latest News and Updates: Criminal Laws in California

By April 26, 2023November 26th, 2023No Comments
Steel Handcuff on Top of the US State Flag of California | Criminal Attorney | Wegman & Levin

Coping with criminal charges of any kind can be overwhelming and stressful, particularly for first-time offenders. Without a clear understanding of the potential outcomes, it’s natural for your mind to assume the worst. Suddenly, your future becomes uncertain, and you wonder how this incident will impact the course of your life. Before you lose hope, reach out to a knowledgeable and experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense attorney to discuss the specifics of your situation. Your attorney will explore every detail of your case and help you determine the most strategic path forward. Additionally, criminal laws and procedures change over time, so it’s essential to work with a defense lawyer who keeps up with every new change and revision to criminal statutes and procedures in California. Below are just a few of the recent updates to California criminal laws and the steps you can take to protect your rights.

Automatic Sealing of Criminal Records

California lawmakers moved forward with several criminal justice reform measures in 2022. A new law distinguishes California as the only state to automatically seal most criminal records for individuals who fulfill the terms of their sentences. Upon release from prison, most people face considerable barriers to employment and housing, as their criminal records follow them around and limit their options for reentering society. Starting in July 2023, the new law allows conviction and arrest records for ex-offenders to be automatically sealed, provided that these individuals are not convicted of another felony for four years after completing their sentences. Some exceptions apply—those convicted of violent felony offenses or those requiring sex offender registration will not be eligible for automatic record sealing. It’s important to note that you will still need to disclose your criminal history when applying to work in the fields of education, law enforcement, or public office. Ultimately, this new law aims to help formerly incarcerated individuals move forward with their lives once they have repaid their debt to society.

Expanding Inmate Rights

As of January 2023, individuals serving time in California prisons can make phone calls free of charge. Additionally, friends and family of the incarcerated will not be charged for any calls they make to the prison. Under SB-1008, “a state prison, or a state, county, or city youth residential placement or detention center [must] provide voice communication services to incarcerated persons free of charge to the person initiating and the person receiving the communication.” These free calls include those made from tablets. The aim of this legislation is to expand inmate rights and remove barriers to facilitate more frequent communication between the incarcerated individual and their friends and family members.

Sexual Assault Kit DNA Update

A new law, approved by California Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2022, prohibits the use of DNA samples from alleged victims of sexual assault for other purposes. This law stems from an incident in which the San Francisco Police Department used DNA collected from a sexual assault victim to investigate and tie the victim to an unrelated property crime. The victim sued the city of San Francisco for using the DNA sample for a purpose other than the sexual assault investigation, prompting the enactment of SB-1228. Under this new law, law enforcement agencies can only use sexual assault kit DNA samples “for purposes directly related to the incident being investigated, prohibiting law enforcement agencies from comparing these samples with samples that do not relate to the incident being investigated, and prohibiting law enforcement agencies from including these samples in databases that allow the samples to be compared to or matched with profiles derived from DNA evidence obtained from crime scenes.” The bill aims to remove barriers that prevent alleged sexual assault victims from reporting the crime to law enforcement.

Expanded Criteria for “Gross Negligence”

California lawmakers recently expanded the criteria for “gross negligence” in relation to vehicular manslaughter crimes. Under SB-1472, a specific list of circumstances that could constitute gross negligence for manslaughter has been added. Now, gross negligence includes engaging in sideshow activity, exhibiting speed, or speeding over 100 miles per hour. This updated definition aims to address the rise in traffic accidents and fatalities involving reckless driving and speeding that California (and many other states) has witnessed in recent years.

Defending Your Freedom and Future

As soon as you know you’re facing criminal charges in Los Angeles County, contact an experienced and trusted criminal defense attorney right away. The sooner you take action, the more opportunities you will have to protect your rights and prepare an effective defense strategy. Your attorney will explore every detail of your case to determine the best course of action. Now is not the time to leave your future in the hands of fate—contact a skilled attorney today to get started.

Contact Wegman & Levin today at (818) 980-4000 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced Los Angeles County criminal defense lawyer.

Michael M. Levin, Esq.

Michael M. Levin is an experienced attorney who has been in private practice as a criminal defense lawyer for over 25 years. He has conducted numerous jury trials in cases ranging from DUI to capital murder. Read More

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