It is no secret that the criminal justice system in California has been subjected to several changes in recent years. Efforts by criminal justice advocates and members of the Legislature have brought about many reforms to ensure equal rights and reduce inmate populations.
We have written about several pieces of legislation that have resulted in convicted felons petitioning to receive lower sentences. When laws change, it opens opportunities for some people to have felonies reduced to misdemeanors or to have a conviction thrown out altogether.
Naturally, some district attorneys and law enforcement organizations have looked upon specific criminal justice reforms unfavorably. Some DAs have sought to find legislative workarounds.
Defense lawyers in California and criminal justice reform advocates are taking issue with prosecutors in San Diego. They claim that the use of a waiver in some instances, that end with a plea bargain, is an attempt to circumvent the will of voters, The San Diego Tribune reports. Defendants in specific cases involving serious crimes like homicide or sexual assault are being asked to sign waivers barring them from seeking lower sentences if laws change. The waiver used by North County DAs reads:
“This agreement waives all future potential benefits of any legislative actions or judicial decisions or other changes in the law that may occur after the date of this plea, whether or not such future changes are specifically designed to provide pre- or post-conviction relief to any convicted defendants, and whether or not they are intended to be retroactive.”
Giving Up Future Rights
The recent change to California’s felony-murder rule is retroactive, according to the article. The new rules mean that hundreds of prisoners are petitioning for lower sentences. Kate Chatfield, of the reform group Re:store Justice, believes the attempt to lock in pleas in San Diego is in response to the legislative change.
“The ground is shifting underneath them,” said Chatfield. “They don’t like it. And that’s shameful.”
San Diego County Public Defender Randy Miz points out that you can’t ask a defendant to give up a right that doesn’t exist yet, the article reports. Michael Crowley, a member of the Criminal Defense Bar Association, thinks the move is a snub toward the Legislature.
“Basically what they are trying to do on a case by case basis is tell the Legislature, you don’t know what you are doing, and we know better,” Crowley said.
Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Attorney Ronald Brower has decades of experience advocating for the legal rights of his clients. Please contact The Law Office of Ronald G. Brower to learn how he can fight for you or a loved one.