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New Criminal Laws for 2012 - California

Well over 700 new laws went into effect in California on January 1, 2012, or in late 2011.

New Criminal Laws for 2012 – California

Increased DUI License Suspension
If a person is convicted of three or more DUI in 10 years, the judge may, but is not required, to revoke the person’s driver’s license for 10 years. The person may apply for reinstatement of his or her license with the DMV after five years, if the driver installs an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in his or her vehicle and meets certain other requirements. (Vehicle Code Section 23597)

Reckless Driving Restricted License
California drivers convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving (called a “wet reckless”) may now apply for a restricted driver’s license prior to the completion of their one-year suspension. They have to serve at least a 90-day suspension, have no more than two prior alcohol-related convictions within 10 years, and comply with other specified requirements, including the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device in their vehicle. (Vehicle Code Sections 12813, 13353.3, 13353.4, and 23575)

Checkpoint Vehicle Impounds
Law enforcement officers are now prohibited from impounding vehicles at sobriety and inspection checkpoints if the driver’s sole offense is the failure to be properly licensed. If a driver doesn’t have a license or fails testing at a DUI checkpoint, he or she has until the checkpoint is over to find a properly licensed driver to take the car home. If that’s unsuccessful, and the officers impound the vehicle, it shall be released to the registered owner or his or her agent upon presentation of the registered owner’s or his or her agent’s currently valid driver’s license and proof of current vehicle registration. (Vehicle Code Sections 2814.1, 2814.2, and 14602)

Child Safety-Seat Requirements
The law used to be that kids had to ride in safety or booster seats until they reached age 6 or weighed 60 pounds. Now they have to reach age 8 or at least 4 feet, 9 inches tall before they no longer have to ride in a safety seat. The police can stop a vehicle for a suspected violation of this law. (Vehicle Code Sections 27360, 27360.6, 27361, and 27363)

New Drug-Related Laws
Synthetic Stimulants: Effective in October of 2011, California has outlawed a wide range of synthetic stimulant drugs, including what is called “bath salts” and the several street names it goes under, such as “Ivory Wave,” “Red Dove,” and “Vanilla Sky.” Common ingredients are Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Naphthylpyrovalerone (NRG-1). (Health and Safety Code Section 11375.5)

Cough Suppressant
Supplying a drug or compound containing dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, to a person younger than 18 without a prescription is now illegal. (Health and Safety Code Sections 11110 and 11111)

Local Regulation of Medical Marijuana Cooperatives and Collectives
Cities and counties now have clearer authority to regulate the location and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. (Health and Safety Code Section 11362.83)

Hypodermic Needles and Syringes
Physicians and pharmacists are now permitted to furnish up to 30 hypodermic needles and syringes to adults without a prescription. Adults are permitted to obtain them solely for personal use from a physician or pharmacist. (Repeals, amends, or adds Business and Professions Code Sections 4140, 4144, 4144.5, 4145, 4145.5, 4148, and 4148.5; and Health and Safety Code Sections 11364, 11364.1, and 121281.)

Open Carrying of Handguns Prohibited
Openly carrying unloaded handguns in public is now prohibited. (Penal Code Section 26350) There are almost 30 statutes, starting with Penal Code Section 26361, providing for specific exceptions. A person can still get a permit for carrying a concealed weapon.

Possession or Sale of Shark Fins
It is now illegal for any person to possess, sell, offer for sale, trade, or distribute a shark fin. There are exceptions if the person holds a specified license, and restaurants can possess and sell before January 1, 2013, shark fins for consumption that were possessed as of January 1, 2012. (Fish and Game Code Section 2021)

Corroboration of In-Custody Informants
A jury or judge may not convict a defendant based on the uncorroborated testimony of an in-custody informant. (Penal Code Section 1111.5)

No Tweeting or Texting or Blogging While on Jury Duty
The judge must tell jurors that they “shall not converse among themselves, or with anyone else, conduct research, or disseminate information on any subject connected with the trial. The court shall clearly explain, as part of the admonishment, that the prohibition on conversation, research, and dissemination of information applies to all forms of electronic and wireless communication.” This applies both during the trial and during jury deliberations. Violation of this admonishment is a misdemeanor contempt of court. (Penal Code Sections 166, 1122, and 1128)

Cell Phones in Prison
Smuggling or trying to smuggle a cell phone to a prison inmate is now a misdemeanor. Any inmate who is found to be in possession of a wireless communication device shall be subject to time credit denial or loss of up to 90 days. (Penal Code Section 4576)

Anti-Gang-Violence Classes For Parents
A judge can already order the parents of a kid convicted of a gang-related offense to attend anti-gang-violence parenting classes. Now a judge can do that even when the kid is convicted of something other than a gang-related offense “if the court finds the presence of significant risk factors for gang involvement on the part of the minor.” (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 727.7)

Voluntary Tattoo Removal Program
California has established a Voluntary Tattoo Removal Program designed to serve individuals between 14 and 24 years of age, who are in the custody of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation or county probation departments, who are on parole or probation, or who are in a community-based organization serving at-risk youth. The statute establishes certain other criteria and is dependent on funding being available. (Welfare and Institutions Code Section 1916)

Post-Conviction Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
In all cases in which a criminal defendant has been convicted of domestic violence, the judge must consider issuing an order restraining the defendant from any contact with the victim, regardless of whether the defendant is sentenced to the state prison or a county jail, or whether imposition of sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation. The order would be valid for up to 10 years, as determined by the judge. (Penal Code Section 136.2)

Sex Offender Registration for Out-of-State Convictions
A person convicted in another state of a crime that would require registering as a sex offender if committed in California must register in California. (Penal Code section 290.005)

Bail When Extradicted
When a person is extradited from another state to California to face criminal charges here, he now faces $100,000 in bail in addition to any bail already ordered for the underlying offense. He or she is entitled to a hearing to seek reduction of this bail. (Penal Code Section 1554.3)

Amnesty Program for Some Fines
An amnesty program for infraction fines and bail (50% off) established in 2010 becomes operative from January 1, 2012 to July 1, 2012. The infraction fines or bail must have been due on or before January 1, 2009. The person must not owe restitution on other county cases or have other county warrants. An amendment now permits the county court and the county to agree to extend this program to some fines and bail for misdemeanor Vehicle Code violations and related failures to appear or pay. The same qualifications apply to the person, but the program cannot apply to parking or specified impaired driving violations, such as reckless driving or drunk driving. This also is operative only until July 1, 2012. (Vehicle Code Section 42008.7)

“Expungement” of Criminal Records
The law used to prohibit what is commonly, but incorrectly, referred to as “expungement” of the record of a misdemeanor or infraction, when the person was not put on probation, if the person re-offended during the first year after being sentenced. Now the court can grant a dismissal (“expungement”) if, after a year, the person has otherwise fully complied with all the other conditions of the sentence, is not then serving another sentence, and is not under a new criminal charge. (Penal Code Section 1203.4a(b))

Wiretaps by the City Attorney
District Attorneys and various law enforcement officers can already obtain, under certain circumstances, a warrant from a judge to wiretap your phone, and can eavesdrop on and record other confidential conversations without your permission or knowledge. Now City Attorneys can, too, if authorized by the District Attorney. (Penal Code Section 633.05)

Realignment which became effective on October 1, 2011, shifts from the state to the counties the responsibility for dealing with many people convicted of various low-level felonies. Realignment makes many, many changes in how people are sentenced for various crimes, where they serve their sentences, and what happens to them upon release from jail or prison. Many people who previously would have served their time in state prison will now be serving it in county jail for up to three years, if they are convicted of non-serious and non-violent felonies that do not require registering as a sex offender.

Most inmates released from prison will be released not on parole, but rather on Postrelease Community Supervision (PRCS), typically for three years, and will be supervised by a county probation officer. Others, such as those who went to prison on serious or violent felonies or on a third strike, will still be released on parole and will be supervised by a parole officer. People who violate PRCS and most of those people who violate parole cannot be sent back to state prison, but can be sent to jail.

(Known as AB 109 (for the original bill), but realignment involves the amendment of hundreds of statutes. Penal Code Sections 1170(h), 2933, 4019, and 3000.08 et seq.)

Consult with a criminal defense attorney

These law changes in California may be confusing and difficult to understand. If you are under investigation for a criminal charge, these new law changes may affect your case. Seek the best criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights. Contact us now for a free consultation with an attorney.

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