Attorney Matthew G. Kaestner

Long Beach's Criminal Law Specialist

New Criminal Laws in California for 2023

Test kits for fentanyl are now legal, but deceptive interrogation of juveniles is now illegal. Most jaywalking and loitering by sex workers is now legal. The unlicensed production of more than 3 guns per year or the use of a 3D printer to make a gun or precursor part is now unlawful. These are among many of the interesting new criminal laws in California in 2023.

The following page, by Long Beach criminal law specialist, attorney Matthew Kaestner, details most of the important new criminal laws taking effect in California in 2023.

“Gross negligence” for purposes of defining vehicular manslaughter under amended Penal Code section 192(e)(2) may include: (a) participating in a “side show,” (b) exhibition of speed, or speeding over 100 mph. A “‘sideshow’ is defined as an event in which two or more persons block or impede traffic on a highway or in an off street parking facility, for the purpose of performing motor vehicle stunts, motor vehicle speed contests, motor vehicle exhibitions of speed, or reckless driving, for spectators.”

Under amended Penal Code sections 487(e)-(f), and 491, it is a crime to steal any “companion animal” not just a dog as before. Thus it is now a crime to steal a cat, or any non-feral household pet. Stealing a companion animal valued at greater than $950 is a felony.

Kits to test for the presence of fentanyl, fentanyl analogs, ketamine or GHB, are no longer considered “paraphernalia” in California. These test kits may now be legally possessed and used by recreational drug users to avoid being accidentally overdosed on a drug they don’t know they are taking.

Several new laws regulate so called “ghost guns.” Penal Code section 29010(a) was amended to limit unlicensed production of firearms to no more than three per year. Penal Code section 29010(b) now prohibits the unlicensed use of 3-D printers to make a firearm or precursor part.

The use of rap lyrics and other forms of creative expression in court is now limited by new Evidence Code section 352.2 The new section recognizes that certain creative expression can introduce improper propensity evidence and inject racial bias. Courts are required to use great scrutiny prior to admitting rap lyrics in evidence.

An allegation that expert medical, scientific, or forensic testimony is now questionable and that the expert testimony contributed to a conviction is now a recognized ground to seek the reversal of a conviction by way of a habeas corpus motion. [Penal Code section 1473(b)(4).]

Under new Vehicle Code section 2806.5 a peace officer shall, in normal instances, state the reason for a traffic or pedestrian stop prior to questioning the detainee.

Under new Welfare and Institutions Code section 625.7, starting July 1, 2024, officers may no longer use “threats, physical harm, deception, or psychologically manipulative interrogation techniques with persons under 17 years of age. The new section prevents officers from using a long list of interrogation techniques on juveniles that are regularly used to squeeze statements out of arrested adults.

Starting January 1, 2023, bad cops need to be reported by their department to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training within 10 days if the department or civilian review board find or recommend that a peace officer engaged in conduct that could render the officer subject to suspension or revocation of certification. [Penal Code sections 13510.9(a)(3) and (b).]

In custody deaths must be reported on the Institution’s website under new Penal Code section 10008.

Persons released from jail now get up to three free phone calls to arrange for a safe and successful release. [Penal Code section 4024.5.]

Two laws effect serial shop lifters. Penal Code section 853.6 now permits an arrest rather than a citation and release of a person detained for retail theft if the person has been arrested or convicted of theft in the previous 6 months or there is probable cause to believe the person is guilty of organized retail theft as that term is defined in Penal Code section 490.4.

Grand theft, the theft of money, labor, or property a value of over $950, can now consist of the aggregate of lesser thefts motivated by “one intention, one general impulse and one plan” under new Penal Code section 487(e).

New Penal Code section 1001.81 allows cities and counties to set up diversion or deferred entry of judgement (DEJ) programs for theft and repeat theft offenders.

California’s mental health diversion statute, Penal Code section 1001.36, was amended to expand eligibility requirements and place greater emphasis on prior diagnosis and treatment rather than a judge’s finding of mental illness.

Motions to recall a conviction and reduce and/or dismiss the conviction can no longer be denied because of an unfulfilled restitution order. [Amended Penal Code sections 17, 1203.4, 1203.4a, 1203.4b, 1203.41/42/45, adds P.C. 1210.6, repeals P.C. 11177.2.]

Veterans suffering various types of trauma resulting from military service can apply for a set aside of their conviction or reduction of their sentence if the trauma was not considered in the prior proceeding. [Amended Penal Code section 1170.91.] Convictions for super strikes or that include sex registration are excluded.

New Penal Code section 372.5 allows prosecutors to permit pleas to “public nuisance” under Penal Code sections 370 and 372 as an alternative resolution to a drug charge in order to avoid the adverse immigration or other consequences of a drug conviction.

Since loitering to commit prostitution (Penal Code sections 653.20 and 653.22) was repealed, persons with such a conviction in their past can petition the court to set aside and seal the record of a prior conviction for loitering under Penal Code section 653.29.
Persons who were convicted of a felony and served time in prison are now eligible in many instances to seek to withdraw their plea and have their case dismissed under amended Penal Code section 1203.41.

Under amended Health and Safety Code section 11361.9, by March 1, 2023, California courts must finish the job of ordering the recall, dismissal, re-designation, or sealing of marijuana convictions consistent with laws enacted in 2018 regarding marijuana.

False personation as a peace officer or other governmental agent to defraud through the internet or other electronic means is now a misdemeanor. [Penal Code section 538(d)-(h).]

Under amended Penal Code section 680.2, sexual assault or domestic violence cards given to victims must include a recitation of their right not to be jailed for contempt if they chose not to testify. Code of Civil Procedure section 1219 specifies that victims can’t be jailed for refusing to testify but victims aren’t generally informed of this right.

Compassionate release was more clearly described in new Penal Code section 1172.2 in those cases of terminal illness or permanent incapacity.

Juveniles are now less likely to be prosecuted as adults as Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(a)(3) now requires “clear and convincing” evidence that the minor is not amenable to rehabilitation in juvenile court.

Finally, the Racial Justice Act (Penal Code section 745) is now amended to be retroactive. Starting January 1, 2023, the act will apply to convictions resulting in a death verdict or adverse immigration consequences, starting January 1, 2024 it will apply to all convictions involving persons who are still in custody.

Long Beach criminal attorney, Matthew Kaestner, has been fighting criminal cases for over 35 years. Attorney Kaestner is a board certified specialist in criminal law since 1999. Whether you are accused of a new law for 2023 or other California criminal law, invoke your right to remain silent and contact attorney Kaestner immediately. He is available to personally take your call and share his expertise. He can be reached directly at 562-437-0200.