Legal Blog

California AB 2799 — Excluding Use of Rap Lyrics Against Defendant

Published on October 6, 2022

Effective September 30, 2022, prosecutors will be limited in their ability to use rap lyrics against criminal defendants to show a propensity for violence or for committing crimes or as character evidence. The California “Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act,” AB 2799, amends evidence rules in criminal proceedings and gives judges direction on how to determine whether the “probative value” (whether the evidence establishes a fact relevant to the crime charged) of using artistic expression against the defendant outweighs the risk of prejudice and bias that can arise from the use of artistic expression, such as rap music, to prove that a person is guilty of a crime.

Although the Act is not limited to rap music, the motivation for passing the act was the increasing use of rap lyrics against defendant of color, which endorses stereotypes and increases the risk of juror bias against them.

Use of artistic expression against a defendant is not entirely prohibited, but its introduction is limited. A judge, in determining whether the probative value of the evidence outweighs the “substantial danger of undue prejudice,” must first recognize that the probative value of creative expression for its truth is minimal unless that expression meets specified conditions. While this does not create a presumption that the expression cannot be used, it is significant that the court must start its analysis with the fact that the value of using expression for “literal” truth is minimal.

The court is also required to consider the danger of bias against a defendant and must hear testimony (if offered) on the genre of creative expression, including the context of such expression, and on research demonstrating that the introduction of a particular type of expression introduces bias into the proceedings. Such testimony must be presented outside the presence of a jury to avoid potential prejudice.

Artistic expression may, however, sometimes be used as evidence of a defendant’s guilt, but only when the expression was “created near in time to the charged crime or crimes, bears a sufficient level of similarity to the charged crime or crimes, or includes factual detail not otherwise publicly available.”

AB 2799 is a victory for criminal defendants, especially rap musicians, in that it expressly limits the use of artistic expression to demonstrate the bad character of the defendant or to show that he or she has a propensity to commit violence or engage in crimes. Eliminating bias and stereotyping is crucial to a fair trial, and defendants have one more protection against the introduction of evidence against them that is unrelated to the underlying facts of the crime.

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Spolin Law P.C. Seeks Compassionate Release for Clients After California AB 960 Becomes Law

Published on

Recently passed California AB 960 gives inmates with serious illnesses and other medical conditions new opportunities for resentencing and compassionate release.

AB 960 attorney Aaron Spolin and his award-winning legal team are ready to file applications to seek compassionate release for clients. We know that you want to be home with your family, and our goal is to help you return to a more normal life. Call us today at a class=”ibp” title=”Call Spolin Law P.C. Today!” href=”tel:866-963-7561″>(866) 963-7561 to find out if you qualify for AB 960 relief.

What Is AB 960?

In a triumph for incarcerated persons who seek release from prison due to a serious medical condition, California passed Assembly Bill 960, effective September 29, 2022. Now, inmates with serious and advanced illnesses that have end-of-life trajectories and other serious medical conditions may be eligible for resentencing and compassionate release.

Who Is Eligible for Compassionate Release Under AB 960?

The old law allowed the release of prisoners only if they were diagnosed with a terminal illness likely to result in death within 12 months or if they required 24-hour care. Now, if an inmate has a serious and advanced disease or medical condition with an “end-of-life trajectory” or is found to be permanently medically incapacitated, they may be eligible for compassionate release.

Inmates no longer must prove that they require 24-hour total care requirement. Compassionate release is available for people with functional impairments resulting in the permanent inability to complete one or more activities of daily living as well as those with progressive dementia.

AB 960 Recall or Resentencing Process

A critical feature of the new law is that it requires the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to recommend recall or resentencing for someone who meets the medical criteria for resentencing. The law also requires that a hearing must be held within 10 days of the recommendation of the Department to avoid delays in release.

Presumption of Eligibility

The new law creates a presumption that a person who meets the medical criteria will be given compassionate release unless they pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.

Right to Legal Counsel

Indigent incarcerated persons referred to the court for recall and resentencing under these provisions are entitled to appointed counsel to handle their hearings.

There may be some complications with the CDCR recommending inmates for resentencing and compassionate release. Further, prosecutors may claim compassionate release is inappropriate due to risk to public safety. It’s important that you work closely with a post-conviction relief attorney who can help you navigate the AB 960 hearings.

Contact an AB 960 Lawyer at Spolin Law P.C.

Compassionate release for serious medical conditions has long needed an overhaul. With the changes in the definition of medical conditions that qualify for resentencing and release and the new procedures for speeding the process along, more inmates who deserve compassionate release will be able to get it.

The award-winning legal team at Spolin Law P.C. is ready to file applications for resentencing and compassionate release under AB 960. Our lead attorney Aaron Spolin has extensive experience getting successful outcomes for clients like you. Call us today at (866) 963-7561 to learn more about your options for compassionate release under AB 960.

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