On January 1, 2021, many major criminal justice reforms took effect. One of the most significant changes includes lessening the severity of the system’s treatment of criminal offenders. Related to this is the removal of inequitable sentencing, banning police chokeholds, and expanding the rights of ex-felons. Other changes at the trial level include reforming jury selection. The California Legislature has also attempted to reform the juvenile justice system with new laws in 2021.

*AB 3234 – Misdemeanor diversion

Assembly Bill 3234 substantially expands opportunities for diversion in a multitude of misdemeanor cases in California. AB 3234 permits applicants to have their criminal cases completely dismissed and erased from their record upon completion of a court-approved diversion program. Once successfully diverted, the underlying arrest will be deemed never to have occurred.

* AB 1196 – Banning chokeholds by law enforcement agencies

Assembly Bill 1196 requires California law enforcement agencies to amend their use of force policies to prohibit using carotid restraints or chokeholds. The bill defines the terms as follows:

  1. “Carotid restraint” means a vascular neck restraint or any similar restraint, hold, or other defensive tactic in which pressure is applied to the sides of a person’s neck that involves a substantial risk of restricting blood flow and may render the person unconscious in order to subdue or control the person.
  2. “Choke hold” means any defensive tactic or force option in which direct pressure is applied to a person’s trachea or windpipe.
  3. “Law enforcement agency” means any agency, department, or other entity of the state or any political subdivision thereof, that employs any peace officer described in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code.

*SB 384 – Tiering of California’s sex offender registration program

Senate Bill 384 amends California’s lifetime-based sex offender registration system to a tier-based system on January 1, 2021. SB 384 establishes three tiers of registration for adult sex offenders, based on specified criteria, for periods of 10 years, 20 years, and life. Juvenile offenders will be required to register as sex offenders for either five or 10 years.

Starting July 1, 2021, registrants who meet certain requirements can petition the court, in their county of residence, for termination of their requirement to register as a sex offender in California.

The three tiers increase according to the severity of the conviction. They are as follows:

  1. Tier 1: The least severe offenses such as misdemeanor sexual battery and other misdemeanor charges can petition to be removed from the registry after 10 years.
  2. Tier 2: Middle-tier convictions such as lewd acts with a minor or rape by deception can petition to be removed from the registry after 20 years.
  3. Tier 3: The most severe convictions resulting from crimes such as rape or human trafficking will remain subject to the lifetime registration requirement. This tier is unchanged by SB 384.

A person’s removal from the sex offender registration system is not an automatic procedure. Individuals must file a petition once eligible based on the criteria of their tier. The State of California has 60 days to review the petition and may grant termination of the petitioner’s status as a sex offender if he or she has complied with sex offender registration requirements and not been convicted of another crime.

*SB 823 – Juvenile justice realignment

Senate Bill 823 phases out California’s State Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) youth incarceration and replaces it with a new county-based system named the Office of Youth and Community Restoration (OYCR), beginning July 1, 2021. The DJJ will no longer accept the intake of new juveniles starting July 1, 2021. The goal is to provide more health-focused and youth development approaches that are closer in proximity to juveniles’ home communities and families when intervention is necessary.

*Proposition 17 – Restoration of the right to vote for parolees

Proposition 17 amends the Constitution of California to allow parolees to vote. It also allows parolees to run for office if they are registered to vote and have not been convicted of bribery or perjury. It is estimated that Prop 17 will restore voting rights to approximately 50,000 people in California.

For over forty years, the Dolan Law Offices have provided Californians with post-conviction services that clear their criminal record to further solidify their future as productive, law-abiding members of the Coachella Valley community. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices are experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

Guide To New Changes In California Criminal Law