The new year will bring several changes to how criminal justice is applied in California.
Here’s what has changed:
RAP LYRICS CAN NOT BE USED AS EVIDENCE
Starting in the new year, courts will no longer be able to use a person’s creative expressions, such as rap lyrics, against them in most criminal proceedings. Assembly Bill 2799 prevents prosecutors from using creative expressions as character evidence against a defendant unless they can be tied to a specific crime or provides information otherwise not available to the public. “California has long held that the use of creative expression as evidence at trial should only happen in very specific circumstances given the opportunity for bias against a defendant. Unfortunately, there are still cases where creative expressions are used in trial in a manner that incites explicit or implicit bias,” Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement of support for the bill.
LOITERING FOR THE PURPOSE OF SEX WORK
Senate Bill 357, by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco was passed by the California Legislature in 2021. The bill decriminalizes loitering for the purposes of prostitution. Wiener argued that existing law allowed police to “to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up.” The bill met stiff opposition from Republicans, moderate Democrats, and anti-human trafficking advocates, who argued that it would hinder law enforcement efforts to combat sex trafficking. Gov. Gavin Newsom, in signing the bill into law last summer, warned that the state “must be cautious about its implementation.” “My administration will monitor crime and prosecution trends for any possible unintended consequences and will act to mitigate any such impacts,” Newsom said in his signing statement. Senate Bill 357 becomes effective Jan. 1. It eliminates from the law books the crime of loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, known as section 653.22 in California code.
COURTS CAN NOT DISCLOSE SOMEONE’S IMMIGRATION STATUS
Senate Bill 836, by Sen. Wiener, reenacts provisions that were repealed on Jan. 1, 2022. In a statement of support for the bill, Wiener said that it was to prevent instances such as defense attorneys “exposing the immigration status of witnesses and victims of crimes in California courthouses.” “In addition, there were reports of immigration agents throughout the country monitoring and detaining individuals at courthouses,” Wiener said. SB 836 passed with an urgency clause, meaning it became law as soon as Gov. Newsom signed it in August.
FREE PHONE CALLS FOR INMATES
Senate Bill 1008, by Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, prohibits government agencies from profiting from the provision of communication services to inmates. Prior to SB 1008 becoming law, the rate for in- and out-of-state phone calls was $0.025 a minute, video calls were $0.20 per minute, and sending or receiving emails is $0.05 per message. Beginning in January, state prisons, youth detention facilities, and city and county jails will be required to offer phone services to inmates free of charge. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation also provided 15 minutes of free phone calls and 15 minutes of free video calls every two weeks to all inmates