BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1276
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          Date of Hearing:   May 8, 2013

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                                  Mike Gatto, Chair

                    AB 1276 (Bloom) - As Amended:  April 16, 2013 

          Policy Committee:                              Public  
          SafetyVote:  5-2

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          No     Reimbursable:               

           SUMMARY  

          This bill provides that a person who was convicted of a  
          non-homicide offense committed before the age of 18 years is  
          eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison. Subsequent  
          parole hearings would be set according to current law.

          This bill states legislative intent to provide a meaningful  
          opportunity to obtain release according to the standards set  
          forth by the California Supreme Court in People v. Caballero  
          (2012), in which the California Supreme Court ruled that  
          sentencing a juvenile offender to a term with a parole  
          eligibility date that falls outside the offender's life span  
          violates the Eighth Amendment, constituting cruel and unusual  
          punishment.  

          (There are currently 5,372 inmates in prison who were under 18  
          at the time of their offense, excluding death row inmates and  
          those sentenced to life-without-the-possibility of parole  
          (LWOP).  According to CDCR , more than 80% are serving  
          life-with-the possibility-of parole, the rest are determinately  
          sentenced; 2,079 have served at least 10 years.)
           
           FISCAL EFFECT  
             
          1)Moderate annual GF costs to the Board of Prison Hearings  
            (BPH), in excess of $150,000, to hold additional parole  
            hearings. If the BPH held an additional 500 hearings per year,  
            the cost would be in the range of $150,000, assuming one hour  
            per hearing and five personnel equivalents.  

          2)These costs would likely be more than offset by an  








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            accompanying reduction in writs of Habeas Corpus, by which  
            inmates challenge their convictions and/or sentences.  

          3)Potentially significant annual out-year GF savings to the  
            extent inmates are actually paroled as a result of this bill.  
            For example, for every 10 inmates who receive parole hearings  
            and are actually paroled, and end up serving 30 years rather  
            than life, assuming a marginal per capita cost of $25,000 per  
            inmate, the annual savings will be about $250,000. Savings at  
            this rate would increase annually to about $2.5 million in 10  
            years.  

           COMMENTS  

           1)Rationale  . Current law, allows an inmate who was under 18 at  
            the time of an offense that resulted in a term LWOP  
            (first-degree murder) to petition the court for resentencing  
            after 15 years. This bill addresses the situation, the subject  
            of People v Caballero, in which a youth is sentenced to what  
            amounts to a  de facto life sentence - a term in excess of the  
            years the youth is likely to live. 

            According to the author, "This bill provides these youth  
            automatic parole consideration after serving 25 years in  
            prison and aligns California law with a United States Supreme  
            Court mandate that a juvenile offender have a meaningful  
            opportunity for release." 

           2)Recent Case Law  . (See Assembly Public Safety Committee  
            analysis for a full review.) In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court  
            ruled it unconstitutional to sentence a youth who did not  
            commit homicide to a sentence of LWOP (Graham v. Florida). The  
            Court discussed the differences between juvenile and adult  
            offenders and reasserted its findings from Roper v. Simmons  
            (2005) that juveniles have lessened culpability than adults  
            due to those differences. The Court stated that "life without  
            parole is an especially harsh punishment for a juvenile,"  
            noting that a juvenile offender "will on average serve more  
            years and a greater percentage of his life in prison than an  
            adult offender."  

            The Court stressed, however, that "while the Eighth Amendment  
            forbids a State from imposing a life without parole sentence  
            on a juvenile nonhomicide offender, it does not require the  
            State to release that offender during his natural life. Those  








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            who commit truly horrifying crimes as juveniles may turn out  
            to be irredeemable, and thus deserving of incarceration for  
            the duration of their lives."

            In 2012, the California Supreme Court ruled that sentencing a  
            juvenile offender for a non-homicide offense to a term with a  
            parole eligibility date that falls outside the offender's life  
            expectancy constitutes cruel and unusual punishment (People v.  
            Caballero). Relying on the reasoning in Graham, the Court  
            found that while the juvenile did not receive LWOP, the trial  
            court's sentence effectively deprives the defendant of any  
            "realistic opportunity to obtain release" from prison,  
            resulting in de facto LWOP and thus violating the Eighth  
            Amendment.  

            In Caballero, the California Supreme Court stated that  
            defendants unconstitutionally sentenced to LWOP, or de facto  
            LWOP may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the  
            trial court in order to allow the court to determine the  
            appropriate length of imprisonment.  

            This bill allows an inmate who was under 18 when he or she  
            committed a non-homicide offense to have a parole hearing  
            after serving 25 years, without specifying the length of the  
            underlying sentence. This approach avoids making the  
            determination of what constitutes a de facto LWOP sentence and  
            provides a parole mechanism for all inmates who were under the  
            age of 18 when they were sentenced.

           3)Related Legislation/Alternative Approach.  SB 260 (Hancock)  
            provides that upon a motion, and after 60 days' notice to the  
            prosecution, the sentencing court shall hold a hearing to  
            review the sentence of a person who was under 18 years at the  
            time of the offense and was prosecuted as an adult, after the  
            person has served 10 years in prison. After reviewing the  
            sentence, the judge may suspend or stay all or a portion of  
            the sentence. SB 260 is pending hearing by the Senate  
            Committee on Appropriations.
             
             The SB 260 approach is preferred by most inmates' rights  
            advocates and the defense bar, who contend recall and  
            resentencing by the court after 10 years is more effective and  
            more appropriate. The SB 260 approach is opposed by the CA  
            District Attorneys Association, who argue it is too much, too  
            soon. 








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            The AB 1276 approach is preferred by the L.A. District  
            Attorney's Office and is opposed by several inmates' rights  
            advocates and CA Attorneys for Criminal Justice. 

           4)Support  . According to the L.A. District Attorney's Office, the  
            sponsor of this bill, "Opponents have argued that Senate Bill  
            260 (Hancock) is a better approach. We respectfully disagree.  
            SB 260 would permit any person who has served 10 years in  
            prison for a crime committed as a juvenile to request  
            resentencing by the court.  However, there is no guarantee of  
            parole consideration.  This approach is likely to lead to  
            inconsistent and unfair results.  Under SB 260, a person  
            sentenced to 105 years in prison (a de facto LWOP sentence)  
            could be resentenced to 50 years (not a de facto LWOP sentence  
            as the parole date is not 'outside the offender's natural life  
            expectancy').  We can then expect years of additional  
            litigation as the courts ponder whether or not 50 year  
            sentences are also unconstitutional.  On the other hand, other  
            courts may release dangerous offenders after serving only 10  
            years, a clear threat to public safety.  AB 1276 avoids these  
            issues by treating all offenders equally and guaranteeing  
            parole consideration after the defendant has served 25 years  
            in prison."

           5)Opposition  .  The Friends Committee on Legislation of  
            California states, "Last year, Governor Brown signed SB 9 into  
            law. Under SB 9, a bill supported by FCLCA, juveniles  
            convicted of first degree murder with a finding of a special  
            circumstance(s) and sentenced to life without the possibility  
            of parole, have the opportunity for review after serving 15  
            years along with the possibility of being paroled after  
            serving 25 years.  Under AB 1276, persons convicted of  
            non-homicide offenses would have to serve 10 years longer  
            before they would be eligible for a review. This is  
            inconsistent with California law and fails to take into  
            account the diminished culpability of youth as a result of the  
            neurological, physical and psychological differences between  
            adults and youth, as well as young people's capacity for  
            rehabilitation.  These factors are based on the  
            characteristics of the defendants as opposed to the underlying  
            conviction.

          "We also have misgivings about referring these cases to the  
            Board of Parole Hearings (BPH), which has a dismal record for  








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            granting parole.  In our estimation, petitioners are more  
            likely to receive fair reviews in sentencing courts, which are  
            further removed from the political process and are better able  
            to gauge the growth and maturity of petitioners whom the court  
            presided over at trial."

           


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081