Penal Code § 1170.126
Over the last decade, California lawmakers have passed some of the most progressive criminal law reform measures in the country. Many of these efforts illustrate an effort to shift the focus of the California criminal justice system towards a more rehabilitative—and less punitive—approach. The result is that resentencing hearings are within the grasp of many inmates serving lengthy prison terms. Penal Code § 1170.126 is one of the most important legislative efforts to reduce the California prison population and create a fairer sentencing system—both symbolically and practically.
At Barhoma Law, P.C., our dedicated Los Angeles criminal appeals attorney has extensive hands-on experience obtaining resentencing hearings on behalf of his clients. Attorney Matthew Barhoma has stood beside many inmates as they walk out of prison after serving decades-long sentences. He is immediately available to meet with clients to review their cases and discuss how he can help them obtain a resentencing hearing or other appropriate relief.
- What Is Penal Code § 1170.126?
- Who Is Eligible for Relief Under PC § 1170.126?
- What Will a Judge Consider When Reviewing a 1170.126 Resentencing Petition?
- Are You Serving a Three Strikes Sentence?
Proposition 36, which has subsequently been codified in Penal Code § 1170.126, is one of the earliest criminal justice reform measures. Penal Code 1170.126 is a statute that permits certain inmates who were sentenced under the prior “Three Strikes Law” to obtain a resentencing hearing.
In 2012, Proposition 36 changed the California Three Strikes Law, limiting the type of offenses that count as “strikes.” Under the new version of the Three Strikes Law, only “violent and “serious” felonies are considered strikes; however, prior to 2012, any felony was a strike.
Thus, the provisions of Penal Code § 1170.126 apply to inmates who are serving indeterminate life sentences based on the old Three Strikes Law that would not have received the same sentence under the new Three Strike Law. To qualify for a § 1170.126 resentencing, you must meet the following criteria:
- You are serving an indeterminate sentence of life imprisonment (i.e., 25 years to life);
- You are not currently serving a sentence for a “second strike” conviction under § 667(e)(1) or 1170.12(c)(1);
- You are not currently serving a sentence for a “violent” or “serious” felony, as defined by § 667.5(c) or 1192.7(c).
- You are not currently serving a sentence for any of the offenses listed in § 667(e)(2)(c)(i-iii) or § 1170.12(c)(2)(C)(i-iii) (certain drug offenses, felony sex crimes, or crimes involving the possession or use of a firearm)
In addition, to qualify for relief under § 1170.126, you must never have been convicted of any of the following crimes:
- A “sexually violent offense,”
- oral copulation with a child under 14,
- lewd or lascivious acts involving a child,
- any homicide offense,
- solicitation to commit murder,
- assault with a machine gun,
- possession of a weapon of mass destruction, or
- any “serious” or “violent” offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Under the terms of the statute, the judge must first determine that an inmate is technically eligible for relief. If the judge determines an inmate is eligible, they “shall” order a resentencing hearing unless the judge finds that the inmate would “pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.”
In assessing an inmate’s potential for future dangerousness, the court will consider:
- An inmate’s criminal record;
- An inmate’s disciplinary record while in custody; and
- Any other relevant evidence.
In this way, judges have considerable discretion in awarding a resentencing hearing under § 1170.126. Perhaps one of the most important elements of a 1170.126 resentencing petition is a “character package.” A character package includes a comprehensive description of an inmate’s rehabilitative efforts, including:
- Self-help classes (Alcoholics Anonymous, Anger Management, etc.);
- Educational pursuits (obtaining a GED or a college degree);
- Remorse letter;
- Detailed descriptions of post-release plans;
- Letters of support;
- Laudatory chronos awarded by correctional officers; and
- Any other evidence which shows that an inmate has successfully rehabilitated themselves.
The more compelling an inmate’s character package, the more convincing their resentencing petition will be.
If you or a loved one is currently serving a sentence after being convicted under the Three Strikes law, you may be eligible for a resentencing hearing. At Barhoma Law, P.C., we have successfully handled multiple resentencing petitions on behalf of inmates charged with and convicted of serious crimes. If you do not qualify for a resentencing hearing under § 1170.126, we can advise you of other possibilities, such as an AB 2942 Petition, 1170.03 Petition, or an Application for Commutation of Sentence. We also handle state and federal applications for a writ of habeas corpus and direct appeals. To learn more about your post-conviction and appellate options, contact Barhoma Law to schedule a free consultation at (213) 800-7664.