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New California Criminal Laws: Part One

Let’s get to it. We’ve already covered the big new bail law, which won’t go into effect until October 1. Here are three new laws effective January 1, 2019.

Drunk driving will catch you an ignition-interlock device on your car. This is Senate Bill 1046. It amends the Vehicle Code to require most anyone who’s convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) to install an ignition-interlock device (IID) on their car for at least six months. The law builds on a pilot program in place for several years in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties. If it’s your first DUI and no one got hurt, you may be able to choose between installing an IID for six months with full driving privileges or not installing one and having a restricted (suspended) license for one year. But if someone got hurt, even if it’s your first DUI, you must install an IID for six months. If it’s your second one, you must install an IID for one year; your third, for two years; and beyond that, for three years. Or, if you voluntarily install the device before a conviction, you may be able to retain full driving privileges, and you’ll receive credit for the time you’d have to install it afterward.

Even people who commit a crime are not murderers unless they meant to murder. This is Senate Bill 1437. It amends the Penal Code to limit the so-called felony-murder rule by which people are convicted of murder based only on their participation in a felony (or attempted felony) in which someone dies—even if they had no hand in it and zero intent to kill anyone. The rule has wrought a lot of injustice over time. It has obliterated the many lives of people who may have made a mistake but did not sign up for or ever even imagine that anyone could be harmed, let alone killed, by their crime. They may be guilty of other things, and they may need to be punished proportionately, but they’re not murderers and shouldn’t be punished like ones. Under the new law, if you’re not the actual killer, you’re not guilty of murder unless you either helped the actual killer with intent to kill or were a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. If that wasn’t you then you can petition the court to vacate your murder conviction and re-sentence you on any remaining counts. The one exception is if a police officer was killed and you knew or should have known that he or she was a cop. Then the felony-murder rule applies with full force.

Misdemeanor domestic violence now strips your right to own a gun for life. This is Assembly Bill 3129. It amends the Penal Code to impose a lifetime ban on gun possession if you’re convicted of the most common charge of misdemeanor domestic violence. As of January 1, 2019, if you’re convicted of a single misdemeanor count of Penal Code section 273.5, you can never own or possess a gun again.

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