Legal Experts Say Governor Brown’s Parole Plan Would Lessen Plea-Bargain Power

This past year, California has been no stranger to criminal justice reforms as a means to lower the state’s prison population. In addition to the 807 bills signed into law set to take place in 2016, Governor Jerry Brown (D- CA) has introduced another state ballot initiative which aims to free certain felons earlier and have fewer juveniles tried as adults. Under Brown’s new proposal, those who have been convicted of nonviolent crimes, including non-violent felons, would be allowed to seek a parole hearing if they have completed their base enhancements, even for those with gang enhancements or firearms possessions.

Additionally, the proposal requires that judges instead of prosecutors, would have to decide whether juveniles can be tried as adults. Currently, California is one of 15 states which allow prosecutors to make the decision.

Legal experts say that the current proposal as it stands would weaken prosecutor’s plea-bargain power. Specifically, by permitting early release for someone with consecutive sentences or enhancements, prosecutors would lose some power in the negotiation of pleas with defendant.   Approximately 95% of criminal cases in California are resolved by plea bargains.

Currently, it is estimated that 20,000 out of California’s 127,000 inmates are currently serving time for drug or property crimes would be candidates for earlier release under this new proposal.  The proposal is expected to make about 7,000 inmates immediately eligible for parole hearings, though officials said about 5,700 of those are already eligible under an existing federal court order. Brown said the proposals build on federal court orders requiring California to reduce its prison population. If California voters approve it in November, this new proposal will be signed into law.   

The Parole Process in California

In California, parole only applies to felony cases where one is sent to state prison. Those who have served a certain percentage of their sentence and have a good record in prison will become eligible for a parole hearing. Once eligible, you must make your case to the California parole board, which is comprised of at least one commissioner deputy commissioner from the Board of Parole Hearings. At the hearing, they will examine your prior history, offenses, disciplinary record in prison, and applicable rehabilitation programs you have committed, to and psychological/risk assessments. The California Penal Code requires the Board to set a release date for an inmate unless s/he currently poses an unreasonable risk of danger to the public. The governor is allowed to override a parole board and block early release.   

San Diego Criminal Defense, Plea Bargain, and Jail Process Attorney

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases with zeal and expertise. We will work with you throughout the entire process from your arrest, charges to your trial and will do anything we can to keep you out of jail, including striking up deals for probation instead. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, do not hesitate to contact attorney David Boertje today for a free and confidential consultation today.