New California Laws for 2019: A Look at Changes to California Criminal Law


New California Laws for 2019: A Look at Changes to California Criminal Law

December 28, 2018

New California Laws for 2019: A Look at Changes to California Criminal Law

As the new year begins, some new laws will take effect throughout the state of California. At The Mattern Law Firm we have been keeping a close eye on the changes that will affect California criminal law. Keep reading to find some of the new laws or changes to existing laws that have come into effect at the stroke of midnight. If you have questions about these or other legal issues, contact us at 310-342-8254 today.

Changes to the felony murder rule

Senate Bill 1437 has made significant changes to the felony murder rule. The purpose of the old law was to hold an accomplish responsible if a murder occurred while another crime was being committed. The most famous example used was a getaway driver in a burglary being held accountable if someone was killed in the commission of the burglary, even if the driver was in the car the entire time.

The main issue with this rule, as the senate saw it, was that it was such a broad law that an accomplice could be charged even if they were not present when the crime was committed. The new law limits how the rule can be applied. Only the person who actually killed the person, or a person who actively assisted, aided, or abetted them, can be held responsible for first- or second-degree felony murder. This Bill also allows for the resentencing of those who were previously convicted or accepted a plea deal for felony murder.

The elimination of cash bail

The cash bail system used in California has long been a problem for several reasons, including the fact that it allows those with money to get out of jail while awaiting trial, while those who do not have financial resources are forced to stay in jail until their trial. California is one of many states that has made changes to this type of system but is the first state to completely do away with it.

Instead, an evaluation process will be used in which the judge decides how likely a defendant would be to commit a crime while out on bail, and whether or not that person is a danger to the community. They also consider how likely the person is to show up for their court hearings. The decision to release them or hold them is based solely on these factors – not on their financial situation.

Changes to the way minors are prosecuted

There were two measures that took effect regarding defendants who are not yet 16 years old. Senate Bill 439 sets 12 years old as the youngest a person can be to be prosecuted in juvenile court – unless the crime is murder or a violent sexual crime. The law allows only children 12 – 17 years old to be wards of the court. If they are younger, they will generally be released to their parent or guardian or to a community-based alternative.

Senate Bill 1391 amended the statutes affecting juveniles to prevent a child 15 years or younger from being tired as an adult for any crime. Prior to this law, prosecutors could make their own decision about seeking transfer of jurisdiction for defendants as young as 14.

These are just a few of the laws that are taking effect as of January 1, 2019. If you have questions about how they will affect your future or past criminal case or conviction, contact The Mattern Law Firm at 310-342-8254 for a free legal consultation.

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