New Criminal Laws in California for 2017
Several major changes are coming to California criminal law in 2017. The biggest change will occur if Prop 64 passes because it would legalize marijuana in the state. Governor Brown signed into law three significant changes to California laws on rape and sexual assault. Other new laws include a restriction on holding a cell phone while driving, increased rights to prisoners who wish to challenge convictions with new evidence, and a prohibition on employers asking employees and applicants about their juvenile criminal records.
Prop 64: Legalizes Marijuana
If it passes, Prop 64 will legalize marijuana for use by adults age 21 or older. It is also retroactive. The law authorizes resentencing for prior marijuana convictions and the destruction of those criminal records. Thousands of Californians would have their criminal records and sentences reduced.
The law would also establish regulations for marijuana growers and dispensaries, prohibitions on marketing toward children, and an excise tax rate of 15%. The law is expected to save tens of millions of dollars per year on criminal justice costs and raise hundreds of millions in tax revenue.
It’s important to note that Prop 64 would not change the fact that marijuana is illegal under federal law.
SB813: Eliminates Statute of Limitations for Rape and Child Sexual Abuse
Under current law, the prosecution of rape must be commenced within 10 years of the crime, and prosecution for child sexual abuse must be commenced before the victim’s 40th birthday. Senate Bill 813 takes away those time limits. This change in law allows prosecutions of these crimes “to be commenced at any time.” The change does not affect misdemeanor crimes and lesser sexual felonies.
AB2888: Enhances Sentences for Sexual Assault
This law creates mandatory prison time for those convicted of sexually assaulting a person who was unconscious. The lenient—and heavily criticized—sentencing of convicted rapist Brock Turner to only six months in jail in the Stanford Rape Case motivated this change.
A related law taking effect in 2017, Senate Bill 1182, increases the penalty for possessing date-rape drugs with the intent to commit an assault.
AB701: Expands the Definition of Rape
Yet another change to California’s sexual assault law is Assembly Bill 701. Under this law, the definition of rape will be expanded to “all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.” The primary impact of this law will be that actions such as nonconsensual oral copulation or sodomy will be charged as rape rather than as lesser sexual assaults.
AB1134: Challenges Wrongful Convictions
Assembly Bill 1134 enables prisoners to challenge convictions with new evidence that is “credible, material, presented without substantial delay, and of such decisive force and value that it would have more likely than not changed the outcome at trial.”
AB1785: Prohibits Hand-Held Use of a Smartphone While Driving
In an effort to decrease distracted driving-related accidents, Assembly Bill 1785 bans automobile drivers from hand-held use of cell phones on all California roads. The new law prohibits drivers from using their phones to talk, text, or use any smartphone functions while driving.
The law reads: “A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or an electronic wireless communications device unless the wireless telephone or electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voice-operated and hands-free operation, and it is used in that manner while driving.”
Drivers caught violating the new law face a $20 fine for a first offense and $50 fines for subsequent offenses.
AB1843: Prohibits Employers from Asking About Juvenile Records
Although this isn’t a criminal law, it will impact those who committed crimes as juveniles. Under Assembly Bill 1843, employers and prospective employers cannot ask employees or applicants to disclose “an arrest, detention, process, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.” Also, employers may not use that information to determine any condition of employment.
If you would like more information about these laws, please contact the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes at 714-423-6931.