California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ended mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes in the state, giving judges more discretion to impose alternative sentences, reports KTLA5. The mandatory sentencing law Newsom signed grew out of what Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco called a failed war on drugs that disproportionately incarcerated people who are Black or Latino and is particularly important for those suffering from drug addiction.
The California Association of Highway Patrolmen said the penalties “work as a deterrent or a reason for individuals to get the treatment they need to turn their lives around.” It predicted that allowing probation will increase the selling and use of drugs and other crimes. Newsom also signed legislation expanding on a 2019 law that limited the use of the felony murder rule, which previously allowed accomplices in felonies to be convicted of murder if someone died. The new law explicitly also includes voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder convictions as eligible for resentencing and could affect hundreds of inmates who were excluded by an appeals court decision as well as thousands of others who hadn’t applied because of the court’s narrow interpretation. A third law signed by the governor creates the presumption that those arrested on allegations of violating their probation be freed on their own recognizance pending a hearing, unless a judge deems them to be a public safety or flight risk.