Recently, the California criminal defense and appeal lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. watched as a client who was formally sentenced to 35 years to life in prison walked free after serving only 20 years of that sentence in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. This marks yet another inmate who was freed as a result of the dedicated work of the lawyers at Power Trial Lawyers, P.C.
Mr. Jones’ Story
Mr. Jones was arrested and charged with three counts of robbery, which were classified as “serious felonies” under California Penal Code § 1192.7. At the time of the alleged offenses, Mr. Jones also had two prior convictions that qualified as “strikes” under California Penal Code § 667.5(b). This meant that Mr. Jones was looking at a third strike under the California Three Strikes law.
After a jury trial, Mr. Jones was convicted of all three counts of robbery. In 2003, Mr. Jones was sentenced under the Three Strikes Law to a total of 35 years to life for the robbery offenses, plus two additional and consecutive 10-year terms based on the prior “serious felony” convictions.
Power Trial Lawyers Enters as Post-Conviction Litigation Counsel
After serving over 17 years in prison, Mr. Jones finally connected with Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. Mr. Jones decided to retain the firm to prepare a resentencing petition under Assembly Bill 2942 (“AB 2942”), which is currently contained in California Penal Code § 1172.1.
In an AB 2942 petition, an inmate seeks a resentencing hearing based on “the disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation of the defendant while incarcerated, evidence that reflects whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, if any, have reduced the defendant’s risk for future violence, and evidence that reflects that circumstances have changed since the original sentencing so that continued incarceration is no longer in the interest of justice.” An AB 2942 petition can also be used as a mechanism to challenge a conviction or sentence based on laws that have changed since the inmate was incarcerated.
However, to obtain a resentencing hearing under AB 2942, an inmate must obtain the recommendation of the district attorney in the county where the inmate was convicted. In Mr. Jones’ case, this was Los Angeles County.
Power Trial Lawyers Files an AB 2942 Petition on Behalf of Mr. Jones
In 2021, Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. filed Mr. Jones’ P.C. 1172.1 petition with the Superior Court of Los Angeles County. However, as his petition was pending, California lawmakers passed Senate Bill 483, which was landmark resentencing legislation that declared sentencing enhancements under Penal Code 667.5(b) to be legally invalid. And unlike many other California sentencing reform measures, SB 483 was retroactive, meaning inmates whose convictions were already deemed final still qualified for relief. In the text of SB 483, lawmakers outlined a schedule by which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation must identify all qualifying inmates as well as a schedule by which the court must recall an inmate’s sentence and order a resentencing hearing.
One other unique aspect of SB 483 is that it allowed the judge to consider the entirety of an inmate’s sentence, not just the unlawful portion. Thus, in effect, this made Mr. Jones’ sentence illegal. He was legally entitled to a resentencing hearing during which he could argue not only for the unlawful enhancements to be removed from his sentence but also in which he could seek a reduction in his base term. However, despite the seemingly straightforward application of SB 483, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office refused to recommend Mr. Jones for a resentencing hearing. Despite having an illegal sentence, the sentence would still not get recalled.
Undeterred, Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. filed a Notice for Request of Hearing on behalf of Mr. Jones. In this filing, Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. asked the court to schedule a hearing to give the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office the opportunity to explain why it would not recommend Mr. Jones be awarded a resentencing hearing based on the passage of SB 483.
Ultimately, Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on behalf of Mr. Jones. Habeas corpus is the procedural mechanism by which an inmate challenges various aspects of their conviction, incarceration or both. By filing a writ of habeas corpus, an inmate is claiming that their continued imprisonment is unlawful and asks the court to determine the appropriate remedy, up to and including immediate release from custody.
The argument Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. made in Mr. Jones’ Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus was simple: since SB 483 became law in 2022, Mr. Jones’ sentence was “’in excess of that permitted by the law’ and violative of his fundamental due process and equal protection rights.” The Los Angeles Superior Court agreed and, in a written order, the court adopted Power Trial Lawyers, P.C.’s order in full. As a result, Mr. Jones was immediately freed, as the court’s finding rendered his continued incarceration unlawful.
Consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense and Appeals Lawyer with Power Trial Lawyers, P.C.
At Power Trial Lawyers, P.C., our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have experience guiding clients through many obstacles in criminal and appellate courts. Consulting with the right lawyer is material to your case. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call Power Trial Lawyers, P.C. at 213-800-7664. You can also reach us through our online contact form.