New Laws for 2015

Proposition 47In effect since its passage in November 2014, Proposition 47 will continue to have a substantial impact on how drug cases are dealt with in California in 2015. Before the passage of Proposition 47, many criminal violations could be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies - law enforcement refers to them as "wobblers" - depending on the circumstances of the incidents. Now - as long as the alleged violation is non-violent and non-serious (meaning not a murder, gun crime, or sex offense) - the crimes listed below can only be charged as misdemeanors: 
  • Drug possession for personal use 
  • Grand theft, receiving stolen property, shoplifting, check forgery, and writing bad checks involving $950 or less 
Significantly, Proposition 47 also allows for resentencing of people who were convicted of felonies under previous law.

Click here for a detailed description of the provisions of Proposition 47.

Possession for sale of crack cocaineSenate Bill 1010 reduces the penalties for possession for sale of cocaine base (crack cocaine) to 2, 3, or 4 years in county jail whereas previous law called for 3, 4, or 5 years. This adjustment brings the penalties for possessing crack cocaine with the intent to sell into alignment with those for powder cocaine. The new law also changes the forfeiture laws for property used in the manufacture or sale of cocaine base and the probation guidelines.

Sex crimes against minorsSenate Bill 926 extends the deadline that criminal charges can be brought against someone who committed a sex crime against a minor (under 18 years of age). Previous law specified that charges had to be brought before a victim reached the age of 28. The new law states that charges can be filed up to the date a victim turns 40 years of age.

Driver licenses for immigrantsThe California Department of Motor Vehicles will begin implementing the provisions of Assembly Bill 60 (passed in 2013) that changes the requirements for receiving a driver license. Under previous law, license applicants had to show proof of legal residence, as well as obtain insurance and pass all the required driving tests. AB 60 changes that so that people who have not obtained legal status are now able to get a license. DMV estimates that 1.4 million of these licenses will be issued over the next three years.

Definition of a one-year sentencePrior law did not define the length of a one-year jail sentence. Senate Bill 1310 remedies that by specifying that a one-year sentence in county jail will not exceed 364 days.

Policies for “welfare checks”Under Senate Bill 505, law enforcement agencies are required to create and implement policies and procedures for conducting “welfare checks.” A welfare check occurs when law enforcement takes a person into custody for 72 hours because of the concern that - because of mental illness - the person is a danger to himself or others. In these instances, law enforcement is also required to check whether the person is a registered firearm owner.

Juror misconductUnder prior law, if a juror ignored a judge’s order to not communicate about or conduct research - including electronic research - concerning the case the juror was hearing, that juror could be charged with misdemeanor contempt. Assembly Bill 2683 eliminates that penalty.

Juvenile truancy and delinquencySenate Bill 1296 prohibits juvenile courts from confining or imprisoning a juvenile who refuses to comply with an order to attend school. The juvenile court is given latitude, however, to implement any other type of lawful order to compel the minor to attend school.