AB 1310: The Equal Chance Act

California criminal law is known across the country for its use of sentencing enhancements, which first started to become law back in the 1990s. However, since then, critics of California’s sentencing enhancements have pointed out that they have led to over-incarceration, especially among racial minorities.

Among the most notorious of all enhancements are the firearm enhancements under California Penal Code § 12022.5(a) and § 12022.53(b). For example, recent data shows that 89 percent of the 37,237 inmates who received firearm enhancement were people of color.

In recent years, California lawmakers have shown a commitment to reducing the impact of sentencing enhancements. In large part, this is based on recent studies suggesting that every year of incarceration increases an inmate’s risk of recidivating by between 4 to 7 percent. Assembly Bill 1310 is one of the most recent criminal justice reform measures to make its way through the California Legislature. In this post, we will examine the impact that AB 1310 would have if passed into law, as well as discuss who would qualify for relief and what the framework would look like to obtain a resentencing hearing.

What Effect Would AB 1310 Have on Inmates’ Sentences?

Assembly Bill 1310 takes aim at two of the most used sentencing enhancements, § 12022.5(a) and § 12022.53(b), both of which apply to felony cases in which the defendant personally used a firearm. Both enhancements are very similar, as described below in greater detail.

Section 12022.5(a) – Provides that a consecutive term of 3, 4, or 10 years may be added to a defendant’s sentence if the defendant personally used a firearm in the commission of a felony or attempted felony.

Section 12022.53(b) – Provides for a consecutive term of 10 years incarceration for any defendant who personally uses a firearm in the commission of certain serious or violent felonies.

Currently, and as a result of SB 620, the trial judge can strike an enhancement when doing so is in the interest of justice. However, because SB 620 is not retroactive, it only applies to cases that are not final. As a result, very few incarcerated inmates were able to benefit from SB 620 because their convictions became final years ago. This is where AB 1310 would come into play.

Under AB 1310, anyone who is currently serving a sentence that includes an § 12022.5(a) or § 12022.53(b) enhancement is entitled to a resentencing hearing. AB 1310 also provides that the resentencing judge may strike or dismiss an enhancement that was imposed by Section 12022.5 or 12022.53. In effect, AB 1310 makes SB 620 retroactive. However, it goes a step further by mandating that anyone currently serving a sentence automatically receive a resentencing hearing.

Who Qualifies for Relief under AB 1310?

As of July 2023 (and the date of this post’s publishing), AB 1310 is not yet law. However, if passed, anyone who is serving a sentence that includes an enhancement under § 12022.5 or § 12022.53 can qualify for a resentencing hearing. However, given the tremendous number of inmates who presumably qualify for relief under AB 1310, lawmakers came up with a tiered referral system.

What Is the Timeline Under AB 1310?

Assembly Bill 1310 puts the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“CDCR”) in charge of referring inmates for resentencing hearings, prioritizing those inmates who completed their base sentence, as well as any other enhancements.

The timelines are as follows:

  • Individuals who have served their base sentence and all other enhancements must be identified by CDCR and provided to the sentencing court by March 1, 2024. From there, the sentencing court has until October 1, 2024, to recall the inmate’s sentence and hold a resentencing hearing.
  • Individuals who have not yet completed their base sentence and enhancement time must be identified by CDCR and provided to the sentencing court by July 1, 2024. From there, the sentencing court has until December 1, 2025, to recall the inmate’s sentence and hold a resentencing hearing.

Of course, this timeline is subject to change, as AB 1310 has not yet been passed by the California Senate.

Do You Need to Retain an Attorney

No. The law proposed establishes that the court may appoint you an attorney. Nevertheless, as common practice, you can retain a private attorney to represent you.

Speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Appeals Attorney to Learn More

While AB 1310 is not yet law, the Los Angeles Criminal Defense and Appeals lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. are staying abreast of all relevant developments in anticipation of the bill becoming law. Those with questions about AB 1310 or its potential impact on their sentence or the sentence of a loved one should reach out to Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. at 213-800-7664.

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