It seems that DA’s offices across the state may be implementing policies that will destroy the critical benefits of the passage of AB109 in October, 2011.
The entire purpose of the new law was to have low level felony offenders no longer sentenced to state prison. The federal courts had told California that the prisons in our state were severely overcrowded and ordered that the prison population be reduced.
As of October 1, 2011 if you were convicted of a lower level prison sentence that had carried up to a 4 year prison sentence, you could no longer go to prison. Rather you would be sentenced to time in a local county jail. This made sense. Low level offenders should not join the hardcore prison population where they only will meet felons who will teach them “new tricks”. The federal court had made clear California had to do something. We did by the passage of AB109.
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The immediate result of the new law change as promising. In last quarter of 2011 state prison commitments dropped from 9,723 to only 5,982. This was a drop of over 38%. We were on the right track. However, it was reported than in the second quarter under the new plan state prison commitments have risen to 6,440.
The law has not changed, so what is a logical explanation for the increase. We don’t have to guess. DA Steve Cooley was quoted as saying that his office was trained on how to file cases under the new law. HE stated “There are heightened efforts to identify individual offenders who are appropriate to have sent to state prison”. Los Angeles has seen an increase in state prison commitments.
What this means is that the DA is looking to “get around” the new law by doing all they can to file more serious charges in cases that should be filed as simple low level misdemeanors. The DA’s office is likely also filing additional “allegations’ which would deny those accused the ability to avoid a state prison sentence.
DA’s across this state are given an amazing amount of power to file criminal charges in any manner they can choose. They can choose to file certain crimes as felonies vs. misdemeanors just because they “want to do so”. It is a shame that the DA’s offices seem to be taking steps to try to thwart what the federal courts and common sense says we should do.
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We urge everyone who cares about our criminal justice system to stay on top of the developments. If California does not lower its state prison population we will be hit by major sanctions by the federal courts. Low level drug offenders and first time theft felonies such as receiving stolen property should not be sent to state prison. Many of these defendants are 18 to 21 year old young people who will see their lives ruined if they go to state prison. Should one mistake lead to prison. We don’t think so.
If you or a loved one is facing prison time, or charged with a crime that may lead to prison, call our law offices immediately at 888-280-6839. We have defended thousands of clients facing prison sentences. Visit us at www.wklaw.com
Are you facing prison time for a crime? Call us now at 888-280-6839. A call to our law firm can be the difference between prison and freedom.