With each New Year come new laws. In 2018, California made many changes to laws, but here are the ones that will change the criminal defense landscape in particular.
- Employers are banned from asking about prior convictions on job applications. This is part of the “Ban the Box” initiative. The new Assembly Bill 1008 expands on a 2013 bill that affected public employers and now covers private employers as well.
This is a significant legal step forward for people with criminal records; a demographic now thought to make up to one-third of the working age population in America. Under the “Ban the Box” initiative, employers must remove the box in application forms that ask about criminal convictions. Before the initiative, many employers required applicants to disclose any felony convictions before they were even considered based on their merits.
Not surprisingly, this made it very difficult for anyone with a felony conviction to find employment. Gainful employment is seen as a sure hold that helps those with criminal convictions move on from their criminal ways. If those people cannot find employment, the cycle of criminal behavior is more likely to continue. Thus, the new law will work to help those with criminal convictions overcome stigma and work toward success.
- California's already strict gun control laws are becoming stricter. Now, those convicted of hate crimes are banned from possessing firearms for ten years. And it is proposed that next year background checks will be required for all ammunition purchases.
This law further tightens the belt on gun owners and enthusiasts and most likely a result of decades of studies that link criminal behavior to gun fatalities. Both state and federal laws restrict gun ownership rights for those with felony convictions and certain misdemeanors. As gun violence linked to hate crimes becomes more prevalent in the news, this new law works to reduce the chance of fatal hate crimes in California. But the law only restricts gun ownership rights. Enforcement of the law, however, is more complicated. This law simply raises the stakes for those convicted of hate crimes.
- Recreational marijuana is now available for purchase to those 21 and over. But expect to only find licensed sellers in major cities like Oakland and Sacramento.
While adults over 21 can now use marijuana recreationally, not all businesses can legally sell it. Expect the gap in the recreational marijuana market between sellers and buyers to slowly close as the year progresses. For now, you might have to make the trek to a licensed dealer to purchase recreational marijuana. With that in mind, make sure you always drive sober. California is cracking down on stoned driving. Those caught driving under the influence of marijuana can be charged with a DUI and face jail time, fines, and a license suspension.
- California is now a “sanctuary state.” This law will have a significant impact on non-citizens.
California law enforcement is now under fewer state obligations to cooperate with federal laws dealing with immigration. The law prohibits law enforcement from holding or questioning people on the basis of citizenship. The law also limits law enforcement's ability to share information and cooperate with federal immigration agents concerning suspected non-citizens unless those individuals have committed certain crimes. The list of crimes is long, however, covering about 800 offenses. Unfortunately, ICE's presence in California is set to increase, potentially pitting State and local law enforcement against federal agencies.
- It is no longer a felony to willfully expose someone to HIV if you are HIV positive.
This change was made in an effort to decriminalize HIV and to look at those who are HIV positive not as potential criminals but more as people living with serious medical conditions. A felony conviction can have serious ramifications. Felons can lose their voting rights and gun rights. They can also be denied employment, housing, or financial assistance.
California's new laws mark progress toward a more tolerant society. But there is still a long way to go before those with criminal convictions are treated as equals. If you are facing criminal charges or have a criminal record, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney who can help you defend your rights and take steps to clear your name.
Facing criminal charges is stressful, but attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team can help. Experienced in criminal defense, our Visalia area legal team can advocate on your behalf in court and aggressively fight your charges. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense working in Tulare, Fresno, and Kings County and won't be afraid to take your case all the way to trial. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.