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The basics of California's most recently enacted criminal laws

When the New Year rang in all over California, residents and visitors alike celebrated. There is much to celebrate when a new year dawns, not least of which is the sense of renewal that many individuals feel when they recommit to healthier lifestyles and pursuing various goals.

The new year is not greeted in the same ways by individuals however as it is by the legal systems that govern their everyday lives. The California legal system rang in the new year by recognizing and beginning to enforce a host of new criminal laws. While some of these laws are unlikely to affect average Californians, others will affect specific individuals in significant ways.

Many of the reforms which began to take effect on January 1 of this year are positive. For example, sentencing for possession of crack cocaine for sale now mirrors sentencing for possession of powder cocaine for sale. Previously, individuals convicted of possessing crack were given more severe sentences than those convicted of possessing powder cocaine.

In addition, juveniles convicted of criminal offenses will now have their records sealed automatically if they successfully complete all orders imposed by the courts. This reform will allow reformed offenders a greater chance at pursuing the kinds of lives they aspire to without the baggage of a juvenile record influencing their opportunities.

Finally, human trafficking victims will now be able to have convictions for either prostitution or solicitation set aside if those convictions are tied to the period of time these victims were being trafficked.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “California's new laws for 2015: How are you affected?” Patrick McGreevy, Jan.1, 2014

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