The Racial Justice for All Act and Its Impact on Penal Code Section 745
It is important for all aspects of a criminal proceeding, including but not limited to the decision to charge a misdemeanor or felony, pretrial hearings, jury trial, and sentencing hearing, to be free from racial discrimination and bias. The Racial Justice Act was implemented in California to allow people charged with or convicted of a crime to raise issues of racial discrimination or discrimination based on ethnicity or national origin in their cases. California Penal Code section 745 addresses the problems associated with both explicit or intentional bias and implicit or unintentional bias by providing a mechanism to identify and implement appropriate remedies in cases in which this type of bias was present. While the Racial Justice Act was a step in the right direction, it only applied to anyone sentenced after January 1, 2021, thereby leaving out many people who may have been subjected to this type of discrimination and bias in earlier cases. Recently, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 256, the Racial Justice for All Act, which makes the Racial Justice Act retroactive in certain stages.What is the Racial Justice Act, Penal Code section 745
Penal Code section 745 initially applied to anyone sentenced after January 1, 2021. Penal Code section 745 provides that “(a) The state shall not seek or obtain a criminal conviction or seek, obtain, or impose a sentence on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.” A defendant has the burden of proving “by a preponderance of the evidence” any of the following violations:
- Bias or animus was shown toward the defendant by the judge, attorney, law enforcement officer, expert witness or juror because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin. Penal Code section 745(a)(1).
- Racially discriminatory language exhibiting animus towards the defendant was used by the judge, attorney, law enforcement officer, expert witness, or juror. Penal Code section 745(a)(2)
- The defendant was charged or convicted of a more serious offense because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin than other people similarly situated. Penal Code section 745(a)(3)
- The defendant received a harsher sentence because of their race, ethnicity, or national origin than other people similarly situated. Penal Code section 745(a)(4)
Such remedies may include invalidating the conviction and ordering a new trial, changing the conviction to a different offense, or resentencing the defendant on the charge(s) for which they were convicted.How AB256 Makes Penal Code section 745 Retroactive and Expands Relief
The Legislature, by passing AB256, expanded Penal Code section 745, allowing people sentenced to death or who are facing possible immigration consequences to be eligible for relief under Penal Code section 745 regardless of when they were sentenced.
Starting January 1, 2024, people serving a prison sentence or jail sentence for a felony are eligible for relief under Penal Code section 745 regardless of when they were sentenced.
Starting January 1, 2025, people with a felony conviction after 2015, regardless of whether they are incarcerated, are eligible for relief under Penal Code section 745.
Starting January 1, 2026, Penal Code section 745 is expanded to include relief to people with a felony conviction or a juvenile case that resulted in commitment prior to 2015.
For more information about sentencing or other relief under Penal Code section 745 in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, or Ventura County and to schedule your free consultation, contact attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at (888) 334-6344 or (323) 464-6453.