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AB 1509

Assembly Bill 1509 — An Explanation by an Appeals Attorney

As explained by California criminal appeals lawyers, Assembly Bill 1509 (Reg. Sess. 2021-2022) is new legislation recently introduced to the California Assembly which, if passed and signed into law by the governor, would dramatically reduce sentencing enhancement time imposed for being armed with a firearm during the commission of a crime. If it becomes law, this Bill could reduce both future sentences imposed by courts and previously imposed prison terms, as described below.

In this article, California criminal appeals attorney Matthew Barhoma, founder of Power Trial Lawyers, provides information on this process, including:

  1. What is Assembly Bill 1509?
  2. How AB 1509 Could Apply to Current Inmates
  3. The Impact of AB 1509
  4. How an Appeals Lawyer Can Help
What Is Assembly Bill 1509?

Earlier this year, Assembly Bill 1509 (“AB 1509”) was introduced to the Assembly for the first time. Among other things, AB 1509 proposes changes to current firearm-related sentencing enhancements which currently impact a large number of pending and final criminal cases in California.

As the law currently stands, the State can prosecute defendants under certain sentencing enhancements which, on their own do not constitute a crime, but are considered an “add on” to permit increased sentences in specified cases. Among these enhancements are allegations pertaining to defendants and/or their cohorts being armed with a firearm during the commission of the primary, or base, offense. Where these enhancements are found “true” or are admitted by a defendant, the sentencing court is permitted to add additional time on to a defendant’s sentence, even as much as an added term of 25 years to life in certain cases.

Assembly Bill 1509 calls for some firearm enhancement-based sections of the Penal Code to be repealed in their entirety, including sections 12021.5, 12022, 12022.4 and 12022.5. Further, the related great bodily injury enhancement section 12022.7 would also be repealed by AB 1509.

Other sections would be amended by AB 1509, including but not limited to the commonly utilized section 12022.53 and section 12022.55 firearm enhancements.

Section 12022.53 presently allows for the following enhancement terms to be added in cases involving the use of a firearm: a ten-year enhancement for possession or use of a gun, a 20-year enhancement for shooting a gun, and a 25-year-to-life term for causing injury or death with a gun. AB 1509 would significantly reduce these terms, providing for a one-year enhancement for possession or use of a gun, a two-year enhancement for shooting a gun, and a three-year term for causing injury or death with a gun.

Section 12022.55 currently allows for five-, six- or ten-year sentencing enhancement to be applied where a defendant is found to have “discharged a firearm from a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony or attempted felony.” AB 1509 would modify these terms to provide for an additional one-, two- or three-year term where these circumstances are found to be true.

While this Bill is in the preliminary stages, if it is approved by both the Assembly and Senate and signed into law by the governor, it would become effective as of January 1, 2022.

How AB 1509 Could Apply to Current Inmates

While other Bills and laws, such as Senate Bill 620, have made non-retroactive changes to the application of firearm enhancements, AB 1509 would apply retroactively to current inmates, including those whose cases are final. This could have a significant impact on the current prison populations, as many current inmates have been sentenced under the relevant laws.

More specifically, where not sentenced under any other enhancements, inmates who have served their entire prison term for their base offense and are only completing firearm enhancement time would become eligible for immediate release. Further, inmates who are still completing base terms would have their sentences reduced to solely the base term and would be eligible for release upon completion, and those who have received a possible life term due solely to the firearm enhancement time would be eligible to have their sentences reduced to a determinate term.

To evaluate exactly how this Assembly Bill may impact your case, contact the criminal post-conviction attorneys at Power Trial Lawyers for an assessment today. We are criminal appeal lawyers serving California.

The Impact of AB 1509

Due to the retroactive effect of Assembly Bill 1509, hundreds to thousands of current inmates could potentially be impacted across the State of California. Further, not only will this decrease the current prison populations, but this virtual elimination of many enhancements and significant decrease in prison terms for the other enhancements, will also decrease the flow of new inmates entering prison as well as the length of the terms which are imposed.

How an Appeals Lawyer Can Help

The journey from a bill to a law can be a long and somewhat complex one. Once an Assembly Bill is introduced to the Assembly, it must be passed by the Assembly, move to the Senate and be passed by the Senate as well. If both houses of the legislature pass the AB 1509, it will go to the governor – currently Governor Newsom – to be signed. The governor may or may not sign it. If he does, it will become law, effective as of January 1, 2022.

Appeals attorney Matthew Barhoma is closely monitoring the development of Assembly Bill 1509 as it passes through the Assembly and Senate and eventually reaches the governor. If passed and signed into law, Power Trial Lawyers will be fully prepared to submit the necessary petitions for resentencing immediately upon the effective date of the changes to law.

If you believe the changes which may be implemented by Assembly Bill 1509 impact your case or the case of someone you love, contact Power Trial Lawyers today to have your case assessed.

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