Texas Felony Sentencing GuidelinesPublished on May 1, 2021
In Texas, felony offenses and their punishments are organized by levels, beginning at capital felonies, then to first degree, second degree, third degree, and state jail felonies, from most to least serious. The charges and consequences of crimes in Texas vary greatly, depending on the defendant’s criminal history, age, and the nature of the offense itself. Texas uses determinate sentencing, meaning the punishment for a crime committed is decided based on previously set sentencing guidelines.
Capital Felony In Texas
A capital felony is the most serious offense in Texas. This category includes crimes such as capital murder and treason. The punishment for a capital felony depends on the age of the offender and whether or not the state decides to seek the death penalty. If the state does seek the death penalty, the offender faces life without parole or death, whereas if the state does not seek it, the offender faces life without parole. While this applies to the majority of cases, in situations where the offender is <18 years of age at the time the offense was committed, they are not eligible for life without parole.
First Degree Felony
First degree felonies are the second most serious offenses in Texas. These crimes come with severe punishments but cannot have the death penalty imposed. First degree felonies are crimes such as attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated sexual assault.
An offender with a clean record will face a sentence of 5–99 years or life in prison for a first-degree felony. Punishment can also include a fine of up to $10,000. However, aggravated sexual assault is an exception to these sentencing guidelines, with the addition of a 25-year minimum for the victim having been <6, or <14 and the felony contained threats of serious bodily harm or death, or the use of a deadly weapon.
One Felony Prior
For a defendant with a prior felony (but not state felony) conviction, the punishment is 15–99 years, or life in prison, with the possibility of an additional fine of up to $10,000. For offenders over 18 years old who are on trial for certain sexual assault offenses, if they have prior convictions of certain violent sexual offenses, they will face life in prison without parole.
Second Degree Felony
Second-degree felonies include crimes such as aggravated assault, sexual assault, manslaughter, arson, and illegal possession of marijuana (50–2,000 lbs).
First-time offenders facing second-degree felony charges receive 2–20 years in jail, along with in some cases a fine of up to $10,000.
One Felony Prior
A defendant facing a second-degree felony charge who has previously been convicted of a felony (not a state jail felony) will be punished for a first-degree felony.
Third-degree felony offenses are crimes such as stalking, deadly conduct with a firearm, intoxication assault, and possession of a firearm as a felon.
A first-time offender being tried for a third-degree felony will face a sentence of 2–10 years in prison, and possibly a fine of up to $10,000.
One Felony Prior
Offenders on trial for a third degree felony conviction with one prior felony conviction (not a state jail felony) will face punishment for a second-degree felony.
State Jail Felony
The punishments for state jail felonies can vary a lot depending on the offender’s criminal history, but they are still the lowest class of felonies in Texas. Examples of State Jail Felonies include DWI with a child passenger, forging a check, and possession of <1 gram of a controlled substance.
The punishment for a State Jail Felony ranges from 180 days to 2 years, with an up to $10,000 fine. State Jail Felonies are unique in that offenders are not able to get early release through good behavior or any other way. See How to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor in Texas for more on this. Prior offenses of varying natures means an offender can face a second or third degree punishment for their state jail felony conviction.
Habitual Offenders (All Felonies)
If a defendant has had two separate previous felony convictions, the sentence for any felony regardless of degree (except for a state jail felony) that they face will be from 25–99 years, or at most, life imprisonment.
Spolin Law Wins Appeal in Court of AppealPublished on April 22, 2021
Spolin Law achieved justice on another case just a few days ago when the firm’s attorneys successfully overturned a prior court decision denying their client the right to petition for post-conviction relief.
In 2012, the client was allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of a local man, described as a child molester. The evidence indicates that if the client was even present, he certainly was not the one to pull the trigger. Nevertheless, the client was convicted of second-degree murder (Penal Code 187) later that year and sentenced with an indeterminate term of 20 years to life in prison.
The passing of Senate Bill 1437 (SB 1437) in 2018, however, offered a sliver of hope for the defendant. This piece of legislation amended the “the felony murder rule and the natural and probable consequences doctrine, … to ensure that murder liability is not imposed on a person who is not the actual killer, did not act with the intent to kill, or was not a major participant in the underlying felony who acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
In January of the next year, the client filed a petition for re-sentencing under SB 1437. However, his petition was rejected by the Superior Court. In November 2019, the court issued a 28-page written decision explaining its judgement. The lower court asserted that the client failed to satisfy his prima facie burden by failing to provide sufficient evidence to proceed with a hearing.
Defeated one again, the client reached out to the attorneys at Spolin Law. Aaron Spolin and Jeremy Cutcher were the primary attorneys involved in the appeal. In the lengthy Opening Brief and Reply Brief submitted by the firm, the attorneys argued that the court was wrong for deciding that the client failed to make a prima facie case and the court was also wrong for pre-judging the evidence without a hearing.
The California Court of Appeal sided with Spolin Law and the client, determining that the defendant did in fact meet his prima facie burden and that the Superior Court must conduct a hearing. (Please note that prior successful outcomes do not guarantee a similar result on a future case). Mr. Spolin, Mr. Cutcher, and the client himself are all excited for the upcoming hearing and is ready to fight for the justice that the client deserves.
To speak with an attorney or staff member at Spolin Law about your own case, call us at (310) 424-5816.
How Long Does a California Appeal Take?Published on April 19, 2021
Filing a criminal appeal in California is oftentimes a drawn-out and complicated process. If you plan on taking appellate action, knowing the basics of how it functions is crucial. The length of this appeals process varies from case to case, ranging anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. Nevertheless, while some cases may take longer than others to resolve, it is important that all appeals are filed quickly after a conviction sentencing.
Before filing, you must first confirm that you have a case that warrants an appeal. It is important that you reach out to an appellate attorney, who will look through the details of your case to identify any legal errors and advise you on what the next steps may be.
If the attorney confirms you are eligible, and you decide to proceed with an appeal, you will start the appellate process by filing a Notice of Appeal in the superior court. For misdemeanor cases, the deadline to file is 30 days from the date of judgement. Felony offenses, on the other hand, hold a 60-day deadline.
While direct appeals must be filed within this 30- and 60-day window, there are other types of post-conviction relief that may be submitted after this deadline has passed. Common examples include a California Writ of Habeas Corpus and an Application for Commutation of Sentence.
Can I File a Late Appeal?
In some cases, extensions may be granted for defendants who miss the designated deadline. In compliance with the 2018 California Rules of Court, in instances of public emergency, defendants will receive a longer time window to appeal.
Additionally, in the event that your attorney fails to provide proper assistance during the appeals filing process, the traditional 30- or 60-day deadline no longer applies. For example, if your attorney does not inform you of your right to appeal or provides misinformation about the deadline of your appeal, you may be eligible for an extension.
Furthermore, cases of constructive filing also serve as proper grounds for an appellate extension. This occurs when the appeal does not make it to the courthouse on time despite genuine efforts from the defendant. Filing the appeal with the wrong court or mailing delays that are out of your control are just some instances in which a constructive filing extension may be offered.
Certificate of Probable Cause
In addition to submitting a Notice of Appeal, you must file a Certificate of Probable Cause (CPC) which legitimizes the basis of the appeal. The court then receives 20 days to review the submission and either grant or deny the CPC.
Notice of Designation Record on Appeal
Within 10 days of filing your Notice of Appeal, you must also file a Notice of Designation Record on Appeal. Doing so will notify the involved parties (including the court clerk, court report etc) and facilitate the collecting of trial records and transcripts which will be used in the appellate proceedings.
Once the primary paperwork has been completed and all the trial records have been compiled, the next step in the appellate process is the preparation of the opening brief. In an opening brief, your appeals attorney provides a summary of your trial, presents their argument, and requests a certain outcome.
The opening brief is expected to be submitted within 40 days of when the Notice of Designation Record on Appeal was filed. This is followed by the respondent’s brief which is filled by the opposing counsel within 30 days of the opening brief. Lastly, once the respondent’s brief is filed, the appellant is given 20 days to counter the respondent’s brief what is called the reply brief.
The next steps in the appellate process are the oral arguments, during which attorneys will be given the chance to argue their case in person and answer any lingering questions the presiding judge may have. You can expect these oral arguments to take place a few weeks after the filing of the briefs.
Contact Spolin Law P.C. About an Appeal in California
If you or a loved one plan on appealing a criminal conviction or have questions about your eligibility for an appeal or extension, don’t hesitate to reach out to Spolin Law P.C.
What Are Mitigating Circumstances?Published on April 14, 2021
In criminal law, mitigating circumstances are factors that help to lessen the guilt of an offender and encourage the judge to be more lenient in their sentencing.
What are some examples of mitigating circumstances?
There are two types of criminal mitigation: positive mitigation and negative mitigation.
When using positive mitigation, attorneys try to paint a positive, more holistic picture of the defendant. To do so, they may speak of their devotion to family, hard work, or loyalty. This strategy uses the defendant’s positive traits to show that their illegal actions were completely out of character.
Negative mitigation on the other hand attempts to highlight any hardships or difficult circumstances that may have pushed the defendant to commit the crime. For instance, details about growing up in an abusive household or a history of mental illness are examples of mitigating circumstances that may be used to argue a lesser sentence.
Other common mitigating circumstances include:
- The defendant having no prior or significant criminal record
- The defendant playing a minor role in the crime
- The defendant recognizing the error of their ways
- The defendant making restitution to the victim of their crime
- The defendant acting out of necessity
- The defendant having a difficult personal history
- The defendant struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction
How can mitigating factors impact the outcome of a case?
When determining a felony or misdemeanor sentence, judges assess these mitigating factors as well as any aggravating circumstances that arise. In contrast to mitigating circumstances, aggravating circumstances increase the defendant’s culpability and encourage heavier punishments. Some examples include a lack of remorse, a leadership role in the crime, or history of criminal behavior.
If a case’s mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating circumstances, the judge is likely to be less aggressive in their ruling. Therefore, outlining the mitigating circumstances behind a crime can become a vital tool when facing severe criminal charges, and in some cases could even be the difference between life and death.
Spolin Law P.C.’s success rate is based on our strong desire to win each case we handle. Call us or reach out online to learn how we can handle your Criminal Appeal.
Eligible Offenses Under Prop 47Published on March 19, 2021
California Proposition 47 is the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative. In 2014, California voters approved lowering the charge and penalties for certain offenses and allowing individuals convicted of these crimes to petition the court to reclassify their convictions and resentence them.
If you are currently imprisoned for a Prop 47 offense that was originally a felony, it is best to talk with a lawyer about resentencing. Your original sentence for a felony could be significantly reduced. You may have also completed your sentence for an eligible offense, in which case an attorney can help with reclassification.
Spolin Law Firm P.C., assists individuals with resentencing and reclassification. Aaron Spolin is an award-winning California appeals attorney and former prosecutor. He will carefully review your case to determine if you are eligible and guide you through the court process. Reach out online or call (310) 424-5816 to set up a free consultation.
Prop 47 Reduced Several Felonies
Prop 47 lowered specific non-violent property and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, unless they had a prior violent or sex crime conviction. This helps individuals in two ways.
Misdemeanors carry lighter sentences than felonies and, in many situations, fewer collateral consequences. A felony record can be extremely damaging to someone’s future.
Prop 47 Eligible Offenses
The offenses included in Prop 47 are:
- Shoplifting: Less than $950 worth of merchandise
- Petty theft: Property worth less than $950
- Receiving stolen property: Less than $950’s worth
- Forgery: Value of forged instrument must be less than $950
- Fraud: Less than $950’s worth
- Writing a bad check/insufficient funds: Less than $950’s worth
- Simple drug possession: Personal use of controlled substances
Some of these were felonies or wobblers, which means the prosecution has discretion in charging it as a misdemeanor or felony. Now, they are misdemeanors every time.
If you were convicted before November 2014, talk with us about resentencing or reclassification.
Resentencing – Are You or a Loved One Serving Time?
People currently serving time in California prisons, on probation, or parole for a Prop 47 offense can ask the court to reduce their sentence to what it would be as a misdemeanor. You must file a petition with the court that entered the original judgment against you.
If you are eligible, the judge recalls your previous sentence and resentences you under the new misdemeanor offenses. However, the court can refuse to resentence you if it finds you pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.
If you are resentenced, you will be given credit for time served. You are also subject to up to one year of parole. Therefore, you could be out of prison much sooner, even right away, if you served over a year.
If you are granted parole or probation, make sure to follow all the conditions. A probation or parole violation could send you back to court and then prison.
Reclassification – Did You Complete Your Sentence?
Have you completed your sentence for a past Prop 47 offense? If so, talk with a lawyer about getting your conviction reclassified as a misdemeanor.
The first step is making sure you are eligible. Your conviction has to be for one of the offenses listed above. You also cannot have certain other crimes on your record, such as rape, child molestation, murder, or identity theft. You are not eligible if you are a registered sex offender. Here is a full list of disqualifying convictions.
If attorney Aaron Spolin finds you are eligible, he will guide you through the paperwork and filing your petition in the court that handed down the original felony judgment. You also have to serve the district attorney’s office with the forms to show you are asking for a reclassification. If you are eligible, then the court must change the felony to a misdemeanor.
Deadline for Filing
The deadline for filing a resentencing and reclassification petition is Nov. 4, 2022, or a later date if you can show reasonable cause. Though you have about two years left to take advantage of these changes, there is no need to wait. Find out if you are eligible as soon as possible.
Let an Experienced Appeals Lawyer Help You
Resentencing and reclassification under Prop 47 are similar, but not the same thing. It is essential to have an attorney represent you throughout either process.
At Spolin Law Firm, P.C., we will thoroughly review your circumstances, and if you are eligible, we will guide you through the process. Call us right away at (310) 424-5816 or use our online form to set up a consultation.
What Crimes Fall Under The Three Strikes Law in CaliforniaPublished on March 8, 2021
California’s Three Strikes Law was originally established in 1994. Under this legislation, harsher punishments are given to defendants with prior felony convictions known as “strikes.”
What happens after your second strike?
As stipulated by the California Three Strikes Law, if a defendant is convicted of a new felony after having already suffered a prior strike conviction, they will be sentenced to twice the standard penalty for that crime. In addition, they will be statutorily ineligible for probation, and may be required to serve up to 80-85% of their sentence, as opposed to the usual 50% percent with good behavior, depending on the severity of the new offense.
What happens after your third strike?
If a defendant is convicted of a serious or violent felony for a third time, the punishments only worsen. For third strike offenders, the state mandates a sentence of 25 years to life. In addition, they are ineligible for probation, and must complete their entire sentence unless they qualify for early nonviolent parole under Prop 57. See In re Edwards (2018) 26 Cal.App.5th 1181.
What crimes fall under the Three Strikes Law?
Since its enactment in the 1990’s, there have been some amendments to the legislation. The passage of Proposition 36 in 2012 has redefined which types of cases apply to the Three Strikes Law. Under Proposition 36, to receive a third strike, the defendant must have committed a “serious or violent felony.”
Prior to the 2012 reforms, any felony, no matter how minor, might have triggered a third strike. Now, however, only major felony crimes like rape are punishable under the Three Strikes Law. Below is a list of other crimes that still qualify as third strikes under the new legislation.
Examples of “violent” felonies:
- Murder or voluntary manslaughter,
- Oral copulation or sodomy by force,
- Assault with a deadly weapon, and
- Any felony involving a firearm
Examples of “serious” felonies:
- First-degree burglary,
- Grand theft involving a firearm, and
- Sale of cocaine, heroin, PCP or methamphetamine to a minor
Can courts remove strikes?
In certain cases, courts may choose to dismiss prior strikes. Once a defendant files what is called a Romero Motion, the judge assesses the circumstances of the case to determine if a dismissal is appropriate. When doing so, they look at the type of crime, how long ago the prior strikes happened, and the defendant’s criminal history.
Can a defendant appeal a Three Strikes sentence?
The recent revisions to the Three Strikes Law under Proposition 36 give those who were convicted of crimes no longer included in the legislation the chance to appeal their sentences. If their appeal is successful, the defendant may have a chance at an early or immediate release.
Spolin Law P.C.’s success rate is based on our strong desire to win each case we handle. Call us or reach out online to learn how we can handle your Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Governor’s Pardons in CaliforniaPublished on February 16, 2021
In California, Governor’s pardons are a type of post-conviction relief that the governor can grant to those convicted of a crime, but now demonstrate that they have been rehabilitated. A pardon relieves the individual of many, though not all, of the consequences and penalties that come with a criminal conviction.
Advantages of a California Governor’s Pardon
There are many benefits of receiving a governor’s pardon. These benefits include:
- The right to serve on a California jury
- Improved employment opportunities, including the right to work as a state parole officer or a county probation officer
- California firearm rights restored
- Relief from having to register as a sex offender (under PC 290)
- The right to apply for a state professional license
- The right to not have witness credibility impeached because of the conviction, and
- A defense to deportation for lawfully present immigrants
Who is eligible to receive a California Governor’s pardon?
In order for an individual to be eligible for a pardon, their crime has to have been convicted in California, as the Governor of California is unable to grant pardons for convictions from a different state or country, or for a federal proceeding or military offense. Individuals convicted in another state must apply for a pardon in that state, while federal and military convictions can only be pardoned by the president of the United States.
Following a satisfactory period of rehabilitation, almost anyone convicted of a crime in California can apply for a pardon. The length of this period of rehabilitation depends on the crime, and can range from anywhere from seven to ten years. This period begins when the applicant finishes parole or probation, during which the applicant must not get convicted of any serious crime. The applicant also must be able to show that they are deserving of the honor of a Governor’s pardon.
Two ways to apply for a pardon in California
There are two ways to apply for a California Governor’s pardon. It can be done by either a Certificate of Rehabilitation or a Direct Pardon. The applicant must notify the district attorney of the county of the conviction that a pardon application has been submitted, regardless of which method they use to apply for the pardon.
Applying by a Certificate of Rehabilitation
Applicants eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation (COR) can apply for a pardon by petitioning for and obtaining a COR from the superior court in their county. Once the petition for COR is granted, it automatically becomes an application for a pardon, which the court must send to the Governor’s office. After this, the applicant does not need to do anything else unless contacted by the Board of Parole Hearings or the Governor’s Office. There are some cases in which applicants are not eligible for a COR, as detailed here, but where the traditional pardon procedure can be used.
Applying by a Direct Request to the Governor
A traditional (direct) pardon is open to those not eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation, where the applicant submits an application directly to the Governor of California’s office. This application is available through http://www.gov.ca.gov. The Governor must have a majority of the California Supreme Court recommend a grant of clemency before being able to grant a pardon application to someone with two or more felony convictions. The Governor’s Office itself will send the pardon application and all other related documents to the California Supreme Court for review.
Spolin Law Client Walks Free Hours After DA George Gascon Dismisses Murder ChargesPublished on February 2, 2021
Yesterday a Spolin Law client tearfully reunited with his mother after a long period of imprisonment for a murder he did not commit. The dismissal was formally handed down by Judge Shellie Samuels of Department 112 in Van Nuys Courthouse.
The murder dismissal came about in great part because of the newly-elected District Attorney, George Gascon. Mr. Gascon had campaigned on a promise of criminal justice reform, and he has been quick to implement a series of “special directives” that show increased compassion for inmates and criminal defendants.
This case had already received significant media coverage for Judge Samuels’ earlier decision to reject the DA’s attempt to dismiss the gang enhancements. (See media coverage: Judge Opposes Gascon’s Reforms, Los Angeles Daily News, 12/17/20. Gascon Blacklists Judge for Policy Noncompliance, Fox 11 Los Angeles, 12/16/20.) The judge eventually gave in on the dismissal of the gang enhancements and then, yesterday, agreed to dismiss the entire case.
The client owes a great deal to his mother, who was an absolute fighter and never gave up on him. She had retained Spolin Law for her son’s case and encouraged the firm’s aggressive practice of filing extensive legal motions in court.
As attorney Jeremy Cutcher pointed out: “I’ve never seen a mother so involved in her adult son’s case. And in the end, she got what she was fighting for. It’s wonderful to see.”
To speak with Mr. Cutcher, Mr. Spolin, or an attorney or staff member at Spolin Law about your own case, call us at (310) 424-5816.
What is a Certificate of Rehabilitation?Published on December 14, 2020
A criminal record simply makes your life harder. It may prevent you from being hired, getting an apartment, obtaining a professional license, qualifying for government programs, and receiving student loans. Criminal records usually are publicly available and easily found.
There are some ways to improve your situation. If you are eligible, Spolin Law P.C. can assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation. It’s one of the few ways you can limit the harm caused by your criminal record in California, New York, or Texas. Call (310) 424-5816 or contact us online for a free consultation.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation Can Help You Get Your Life Back
A Certificate of Rehabilitation won’t expunge or seal your record, but it may be your best option if expungement or other post-conviction remedies aren’t available.
Under California law, it’s illegal for an employer with five or more employees to fail to hire someone because of their convictions if they have a certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate also functions as an automatic pardon application.
Under California law, the certificate is issued by a court and attests to your rehabilitation after a conviction. Texas and New York have their own versions. With this certificate, you can recover some of your legal rights. It should also be easier to find a job.
The process involves filling out a form, gathering evidence to support your application, and a court hearing. If you receive a certificate:
- Your civil rights are restored, except your 2nd Amendment rights concerning firearms
- You can’t be denied public licensing or employment (with some limits) due to your conviction
- Depending on the crime, you may no longer need to register as a sex offender
Do You Qualify for a Certificate of Rehabilitation?
The certificate won’t erase your felony conviction or seal the criminal record. If you served time in either state prison or county jail, you might qualify if you:
- Haven’t been re-incarcerated after your release
- Continuously lived in California for at least five years since your release. Some violent and sex-related crimes have longer waiting periods
- Have proof of your rehabilitation since your release
- Aren’t on probation for another felony
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to prison, another California state penal institution or agency, or
- Were convicted of a felony and sentenced to probation, and your conviction has been expunged, or
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense in Penal Code 290 (the Sex Offender Registration Act), and your conviction has been expunged
Proof of rehabilitation can be shown by:
- A record of consistent employment
- Getting drug, alcohol, or domestic abuse counseling
- Engaging in community events and affairs
- Volunteering for non-profit organizations
- Not having an arrest record
- Active involvement in your children’s lives
- Positive letters from employers, clergy, neighbors, community leaders, or volunteer agencies
After filing your application, a hearing is held. You or your attorney will make your case and evidence that you qualify for the certificate. If the court issues the certificate, it’s reviewed by the Board of Parole Hearings. It will later issue a recommendation as to whether the Governor should pardon you.
Take the Next Step. Contact Spolin Law P.C.
A Certificate of Rehabilitation can help get your life back after serving your sentence and successfully returning to society. To learn more about how you can obtain one or to get our help in the process, call Spolin Law P.C. at (310) 424-5816 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
New LA District Attorney George Gascon Promises to Re-Open Thousands of Old CasesPublished on December 9, 2020
The new Los Angeles District Attorney, George Gascon, has promised to re-open thousands of old cases for California prison inmates with Los Angeles County convictions.
George Gascon defeated the prior District Attorney (Jackey Lacey) in the November election last month. He was sworn into office this past Monday, December 7, 2020. Mr. Gascon then shocked the legal community by announcing a wide array of sweeping reforms and a retroactive application of most of these reforms.
“Retroactive” means that the many of the new changes will affect convictions in the past, whether they are from 25 years ago or from the day before Mr. Gascon took office.
This article was written by one of the criminal appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. To find out more about how George Gascon’s election can affect your case, call our firm at (310) 424-5816.
Types of Cases Affected
The new policies issued by the Gascon administration are listed in a series of special directives that were published on December 7, 2020. They affect the following cases:
Cases with Sentence Enhancements
Special Directive 20-08 commands all prosecutors to abolish sentence enhancements (including gang enhancements, strikes, three-strike penalties).
Juveniles Tried in Adult Court
Special Directive 20-09 orders the abolition of the use of adult court for juveniles. Special Directive 20-14 also orders the re-opening and re-sentencing of “all cases where the defendant was a minor at the time of the offense.”
Writs of Habeas Corpus
Special Directive 20-10 stops the prior practice of automatically opposing all writs of habeas corpus. Now, the DA Habeas Unit “shall not simply oppose the petitioner’s claim” when the inmate’s claims are “supported by reasonably available evidence.”
Special Directive 20-13 completely changes the practices of the Conviction Integrity Unit so that the DA’s Office is tasked with helping prove the innocence of inmates where there are “avenues of investigation that have the potential to substantiate the applicant’s claim(s).”
Inmates with Overly-Long Sentences
As Mr. Gascon said himself: “the sentences we impose in this country, in this state, and in Los Angeles County are far too long … [and I] campaigned on stopping the practice of imposing excessive sentences.” (Special Directive 20-14, 12/7/2020, page 2, italics added). Special Directive 20-14 orders the DA’s Office to allow a review of old sentences and use all available legal methods to fairly resentence inmates who received overly-long sentences.
How an Inmate Can Benefit
The election of George Gascon is great news for California inmates with Los Angeles County cases. However, not every inmate will benefit from the new DA’s changes. Here are some steps that may help you in winning a reduced sentence for yourself or a loved one.
Find a Skilled Appeals Lawyer
While Mr. Gascon is clearly an ally in reducing inmate sentences, he is limited by the laws that currently exist. Spolin Law P.C. handles post-conviction matters for clients throughout California and has experience reaching out to the DA’s Office through some of the legal methods described below.
Learn About New Laws AB 2942 / PC 1170d1
One way to get Mr. Gascon’s DA Office to reconsider a case is to apply under the new law AB 2942, which went into effect in 2019. AB 2942 allows each District Attorney’s Office in California to recommend resentencing for old convictions that occurred in that county. The law, written into the Penal Code, is one way to seek the new DA’s help in reducing an overly long sentence.
As one local attorney recently said, “It’s like the DA’s Office is now being run by a true-believer defense attorney.” Nonetheless, there are tens of thousands of unfair sentences that have been handed down in Los Angeles County over the last several decades. In order to benefit from these new policy changes, you will have to take some type of action so that your case gets noticed. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Speak to your lawyer (or find a lawyer) so that you can begin this process. The appeals lawyers at Spolin Law P.C. are available to review cases and make recommendations.
To speak with a criminal law attorney or staff member at Spolin Law P.C., call us at (310) 424-5816.