Newsom signs bills restricting sentencing enhancements for many crimes

October 9, 2021

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed laws aimed at reducing prison sentences for people convicted of drug- and gang-related crimes, despite concerns from prosecutors that the measures will hinder their effort to protect Californians.

Legislation signed by the governor includes Senate Bill 81, which seeks to reduce the number of sentence enhancements in criminal cases that can double prison terms.

More than 150 enhancements exist for aggravating factors that include prior criminal records, use of a gun in the commission of a crime and offenses involving minors.

The law by state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would have judges dismiss enhancements in certain cases, including when they would result in “discriminatory racial impact” or a sentence of more than 20 years, or when the offense is connected to mental illness, prior victimization or childhood trauma. Skinner said enhancements disproportionately affect people of color.

“If sentence enhancements were applied fairly, this wouldn’t be an issue,” she said. “However, data shows that in California, you are much more likely to receive a sentence enhancement if you are Black. SB 81 tells our courts: Let’s stop unfair sentences and use enhancements only when necessary to protect the public.”

 

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