There has been a lot of talk about changes in California criminal law sentencing lately, and much of it is quite real.
The actual effect of these changes, however, is often, as a practical matter, exaggerated.
Sentencing has recently been affected by voter initiatives, state legislation, court opinions, and the election of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon (an attempt is under way to recall him). Governor Newsom has also just appointed a new State Attorney General, Rob Bonta. All these events are pointing toward more focus on rehabilitation and less on punishment.
What is real is that diversion programs are significantly more available in misdemeanor cases, and release pending trial without having to post bail is more likely. (For people who can endure a couple of nights of incarceration, defendants are more likely than before to be released at their first court appearance, even on many felonies.)
So what has not changed?
The same judges and the same prosecutors are in our courtrooms, and many of them are not accepting new changes gracefully. This is especially true of DA Gascon’s directives to his staff to drop special allegations and enhancements in major felonies. These directives are being litigated in courts all over L.A. County, and none of us really knows how it will all come out.
It’s a good idea to have an initial consultation with a qualified criminal lawyer as soon as you even suspect you may be facing criminal charges. This is especially true now, when only currently engaged criminal lawyers are keeping up with the rapid changes taking place. If you consult a lawyer with a reputation for integrity, that lawyer will be able to tell you if you need help, what help you need, and what to do in the meantime. At the least, this will give you peace of mind and a roadmap to follow in case of any surprises.