Every new year, California Governor Jerry Brown sifts through hundreds of bills sent to his desk and signs into law a slew of legislative changes in the criminal law sector for the state. In 2016, Brown saw 1,059 bills come forward, 898 of which he signed into law. He also vetoed 159 and let two become law without signing them. Here are the key laws that will be enacted in 2017 that affect the criminal law sector.
As part of a legislative package toughening gun regulations, Senate Bill 880 and Assembly Bill 1135 sought to close a loophole for guns with reloading devices called “bullet buttons.” While California already prohibits the sale and possession of assault weapons (defined as those with magazines that can be detached without disassembling the gun), “bullet button” devices quickly release spent magazines to get around the ban. As of the new year, it is now illegal to sell semi-automatic, centerfire rifles or semi-automatic pistols that do not have a fixed magazine and also have one from a list of specific features in California.
Changes in Sex Crime Laws
Senate Bill 1322 also took effect at the start of the new year. It prevents law enforcement from charging those under 18 years of age with prostitution or loitering with the intent to commit prostitution and was intended to protect victims of sex trafficking from criminal prosecution. Senate Bill 1129 further removes the mandatory minimum sentencing penalties imposed for repeat prostitution offenders who are 18 years of age or older. This law will give judges more discretion in sentencing on a case by case basis as opposed to hardline penalties.
However, while some criminal reform laws have made things more lenient on certain offenders, other laws, like Assembly Bill 2888 ensures that certain rape cases have mandatory minimum prison sentences that are not suspendable. This was a direct reaction to the lenient sentencing of convicted Standford rapist Brock Turner. Lastly, Assembly Bill 27 will classify all forms of rape as a violent felony.
Uber and Lyft
Companies including Uber and Lyft can no longer hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of violent felonies, or have had a DUI conviction within the last seven years.
Date Rape Drugs