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Being charged with a violent crime often brings immediate and serious consequences that can persist even if the charges are later dropped or the person is found innocent. Job loss, divorce and the breakdown of the person’s support system are common repercussions these individuals experience. Anyone charged with a crime needs solid criminal defense representation, but this is especially true in the case of a violent offense. The penalties are much harsher, and the complexity of defending against such charges is usually much higher. California is known for its severe sentencing standards, known commonly as the Three Strikes Law. This law fails to adequately differentiate between offenders who pose continuing threats to society and those who do not. As a result, thousands of offenders were sentenced to decades in jail for non-violent offenses with no hope of early parole. This law has led to severe overcrowding of the California prison system, and efforts to reform this sentencing scheme began in 2012. Last year, voters passed Proposition 57 that aims to substantially overhaul the state’s parole system by allowing parole boards to release offenders early if they were not convicted for crimes classified as ‘violent.’ However, which crimes qualify as violent is unclear and currently being contested in the state legislature. An overview of the provisions of the new law related to reducing the prison population, and how legislators are approaching the question of ‘violent crime’ will follow below.

New Parole Guidelines

The goal of the new parole standards under Proposition 57 is to increase the number of inmates eligible for parole. When individuals are sentenced, most receive a set number of years they must serve before release. For the minority that receive indeterminate sentences (25 years to life, for example), a minimum term is imposed before release may be considered. Under the new law, the state parole board would have the ability to consider releasing individuals convicted of non-violent felonies after the minimum primary sentence is served, even if additional time was added for lesser offenses or sentence enhancements. Further, the state corrections department is now permitted to expand the program that awards credits for good behavior and participation in approved rehabilitative programs to a greater number of inmates, and increase the number of credits that may be awarded. These credits are used to reduce sentences.

What Is a Violent Felony?

As noted above, the new parole laws only apply to non-violent felonies. California’s penal code currently lists 23 offenses as violent, leaving the remainder eligible for early release. Some examples include:

  • Murder;
  • Rape;
  • Robbery;
  • Arson; and
  • Kidnapping.

Some state lawmakers believe the current list of violent felonies is inadequate, and are attempting to pass new legislation that would significantly expand the number of qualifying offenses. Sex offenders are a group lawmakers, law enforcement and the governor are particularly targeting. Governor Brown included a provision in the newly-proposed budget that would disqualify all sex offenders from early release, regardless of whether the offense was considered violent or not. Separate bills are under consideration in both legislative chambers specifically looking to add offenses that demonstrate violence towards the victim, according to lawmakers.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

Overhauling the parole system has major liberty implications for thousands of accused defendants and convicted offenders. If you are facing charges for a violent crime, you need a criminal defense attorney committed to getting you the best possible results. The Manshoory Law Group, APC focuses on criminal defense for clients in the Los Angeles area, and is ready to offer you a strong approach to defending your case. Attorneys are available 24/7. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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