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Criminal Justice Realignment Act

Sentencing

On October 1, 2011, the California legislature passed The Criminal Justice Realignment Act, which made significant changes to sentencing law concerning where a prisoner will serve his time, how that prisoner will be supervised upon release and how sentencing credits will be calculated. These changes apply to defendants sentenced on or after October 1, 2011. Under this Act, all defendants convicted of felonies and sentenced under Penal Code Section 1170(h) will receive county jail, instead of state prison, for 16 months, two or three years. These crimes are generally ones that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony ("Wobblers").

Any other felony sentence will, by default, result in a state prison sentence, unless otherwise designated. There are some crimes and defendants, who, if denied probation, will be mandated to go to state prison, regardless of the language in the statute. Crimes that require sex registration, or serious or violent felonies will result in a state prison sentence. Serious or violent felonies include, but are not limited to: murder, attempted murder, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, mayhem, rape, first degree burglary, robbery, kidnapping, arson, sodomy, the continuing sexual abuse of a minor, carjacking, criminal threats, and possession of a controlled substances while armed with a firearm.

Also, defendants who receive an aggravated theft enhancement or who have previously been convicted of a serious felony ("strike') or violent felony will be ineligible for a county jail sentence. Judges will also have the discretion to suspend a portion of the sentence and allow a defendant to be released under supervision, similar to probation, for the remainder of the sentence. Moreover, for every two days spent in county jail a defendant will receive four days total credit and for every six months served in state prison, a defendant will receive one year total credit (so called "day for day credit").

This means that more defendants will serve their time in county jail, be offered an alternative to parole and receive more credits for actual time served. Not all prosecutors are aware of these new changes; a skilled criminal defense attorney can argue that you receive the lowest sentence possible, and that you receive all credits that you earned under the new laws. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today to protect your rights and discuss your options.