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California Lawmaker Proposed Bill that Would Significantly Change the State’s Sentencing Enhancements

Earlier this year, Assembly Member Alex Lee (D-San Jose) introduced AB 1509, named the Anti-Racism Sentencing Reform Act. If passed, the bill would drastically reduce the sentencing enhancements courts use to sentence those convicted of having a gun in their possession when they committed the underlying offense. Lee explains that the practical effect of the current sentencing enhancement laws has a disproportionate impact on People of Color, noting that 89 percent of those incarcerated based on these enhancements are People of Color.

How Do Sentencing Enhancements Work?

A sentencing enhancement is an increase in the maximum allowable punishment that is based on a certain fact. In the case of gun-sentencing enhancements, a person convicted of certain crimes will face a significantly longer sentence because they carried a gun when they committed the offense. However, sentencing enhancements are duplicative and unnecessary, as the law allows for a person who has a gun when committing another offense to be charged with the underlying offense as well as for possession of a gun. In other words, under the current state of the law, if you were to commit a robbery while carrying a gun, you would face robbery charges, gun charges, as well as a sentencing enhancement.

How Would AB 1509 Change Gun-Sentencing Enhancements?

If AB 1509 passes, it would significantly reduce—although not eliminate—the sentencing enhancements for those convicted of certain crimes while carrying or using a gun. For example, under the current framework, the sentencing enhancements are as follows:

  • A five- or six-year enhancement for shooting a gun out of a car during the commission of a crime.
  • A 10-year enhancement for carrying or using a gun during the commission of a crime.
  • A 20-year enhancement for shooting a gun during the commission of a crime.
  • A 25-year to life-sentence enhancement for causing injury or death with a gun during the commission of a crime.

However, AB 1509 would reduce these enhancements to either one, two, or three years, depending on how the gun was used and if anyone was injured or killed. The bill would also apply retroactively, meaning those who have already been convicted of a crime and sentenced based on the current enhancements may be entitled to relief.

While AB 1509 is not yet law, California lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill later this year.

Are You Serving Time Based on a Sentencing Enhancement?

Over the past decade, California laws have changed dramatically. Many laws were passed that significantly reduce defendants’ exposure, and most of these laws are retroactive in some fashion. If you are currently serving a lengthy prison term based on a sentencing enhancement, you may have several avenues of relief available to you. Attorney Matthew Barhoma is a dedicated California post-conviction lawyer with extensive experience helping his clients obtain relief through new legal and statutory developments. He is known for his aggressive advocacy, even in the face of significant push-back. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give Attorney Barhoma a call at 213-800-7664 today. You can also reach him through his online form.



SB81 | AB1509 | Gun Enhancements

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