Articles Tagged with reform

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Until recently, the Federal Government and the State of California defined criminal “misdemeanors” differently. While the federal government defined a misdemeanor as a crime punishable by up to 364 days, California defined it as one punishable by up to 365 days. This one-day difference often proved disastrous for immigrants with convictions, however, because the Federal government considers a crime punished by 365 days a felony and felony convictions often subject immigrants to deportation or exclusion.

In 1996 Congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which expanded the crimes for which legal residents can be deported to include crimes which were punished by 365 days. States which continued to defined misdemeanors as including sentences of 365 days unwittingly caused their immigrant-residents to face not only up to a year in jail, but deportation or exclusion from entry as well. This applied to all immigrants, regardless of whether a sentence was suspended or whether a person spent only a few days in jail.

Effective January 1, 2015, California Senate Bill 1310 changed the maximum misdemeanor sentence to mirror the Federal Government’s 364 days. Senate Bill 1242 then applied this change retroactively, allowing those who were sentenced before 2015 to receive the statute’s intended protection.

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Californians have just enacted the biggest change to the criminal justice system in a generation. Voters have approved Proposition 47, which will reduce most drug and many theft crimes from felonies to mere misdemeanors. This will reduce or eliminate thousands of jail sentences across the state.

Anyone who is currently serving a prison sentence that qualifies under this reclassification is eligible to petition for a new, lighter sentence, even if currently incarcerated under Californias “three strikes” law. Someone serving a 25-to-life sentence may, for example, be allowed to leave prison now with credit for time that has been served.

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