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Sentencing Realignment to Affect Prison Population

20-Mar-2012 by Kenneth L. Schreiber

Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor made his feelings known about Dr. Conrad Murray during his recent sentencing hearing. He appeared ready to send Dr. Murray to state prison for his actions surrounding the death of pop icon Michael Jackson. However, a new law prevented Pastor from handing down a prison sentence. Instead, Dr. Murray would spend the maximum time allowed under law in county jail.

The California legislature recently imposed new rules for sentencing non-violent, non-serious and non-sex-related offenses. Essentially, those convicted of such felonies would serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prisons. Similarly, non-violent and non-serious offenders would be supervised by county probation officers instead of state parole officers.

These changes come in accord with a mandate from the U.S. Supreme Court to address the issue of overcrowding in California’s state prison system. Many accounts suggest that it had been operating at double its capacity for the last decade. The Court ruled in May that the systemic problems caused by overcrowding caused "needless suffering and death" and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that violates the Eighth Amendment. The ruling required the state to reduce its state prison population by at least 37,000 inmates in the next two years.

This ostensibly will affect people convicted of low level drug offenses, vehicular manslaughter, statutory rape, and involuntary manslaughter, as Dr. Murray was convicted of.

County officials are concerned about shifting the burden of overcrowding to county jails. The Los Angeles County Sheriff will receive a number of “non, non, non” offenders from state prison. Without room to house new N3 offenders, it is likely that others will serve shorter sentences in jail. Judges will have the discretion to impose "hybrid" or "split sentences" where offenders serve part of their sentence in county jail and the rest on mandatory supervision, under probation officers. However, those who serve their entire sentence in jail will not be supervised upon release.

If you have questions about how the realignment plan may affect your sentencing, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you.

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Serving Southern California: Irvine criminal defense attorney Kenneth L. Schreiber represents clients throughout California's Inland Empire, including Riverside, San Bernardino, Newport Beach, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, San Diego, Ventura, Los Angeles, Mission Viejo, Beverly Hills, Corona Del Mar, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Huntington Beach, Orange, Villa Park, Dana Point, Fountain Valley, Tustin, Lake Forest, Westminster, Anaheim, Vista, Fallbrook, Temecula, Marietta, and other communities in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.