Attorney Matthew G. Kaestner

Long Beach's Criminal Law Specialist


Each new year brings a host of new laws to be obeyed by Californians. The year 2012 is no different. To follow are some of the more interesting and important new laws as described by Long Beach criminal attorney, criminal law specialist, Matthew Kaestner.

The new law that has had the greatest impact on criminal law in California is "Realignment." Realignment is a change in the punishment of hundreds of low-level felonies. Most low-level felonies are punishable by a sentence to county jail only. State prison is no longer available for most low-level drug offenses, property crimes, and non-serious, non-violent felonies. Sentences of 2, 3,4, or more years must now be served in the State's county jails.

In Los Angeles county, this means that persons sentenced to jail on misdemeanors are likely to serve only a fraction of their sentence. Persons sentenced to a term of years to county jail can expect to serve less than one-half of their sentence. As the jails get more overcrowded, it is expected that inmates will serve a smaller fraction of their sentence.

It is now illegal to openly carry an unloaded firearm in public. Prior to the enactment of Penal Code section 26350, it was lawful to openly carry an unloaded, unconcealed firearm outside a vehicle. Openly carrying a firearm is now a misdemeanor.

For persons with unpaid fines on old traffic offenses, either misdemeanor or infractions, that were due prior to January 1, 2009, a 50% discount is available. This fine "amnesty" is available for those old fines that are off paid between January 1, 2012 and July 1, 2012.

It is now a misdemeanor to sell synthetic drugs that mimic controlled substances. New Health and Safety Code section 11375.5 prohibits the sale or possession for sale of synthetic stimulants that are sold as "herbal incense," "ivory wave," "red dove," "vanilla sky" or bath salts. The substances Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and Naphthylpyrovalerone are said to mimic the effects of cocaine and other stimulants but are said to be potentially dangerous.

Persons convicted of third and subsequent DUI's in 10 years will now suffer a 10 year license revocation doubling the previous maximum period of revocation.

At trial, the testimony of an in custody informant must be corroborated to be sufficient to sustain a guilty verdict. New Penal Code section 1111.5 is meant to protect persons from being convicted by jailhouse informants who have been shown in the past to be less than reliable.

Jurors who use electronic or wireless devices to communicate with others about a case they are on or using such devices to conduct research about the case, can now be prosecuted with misdemeanor contempt under new Penal Code section 166(a)(6).

It is now a misdemeanor to give an incarcerated person a cellular telephone under newly enacted Penal Code section 4576.

Sharks and environmentalists can now breathe a sigh of relief. New Fish and Game Code section 2021 punishes the possession, sale, or transportation of shark fins.

In 2012, whether you're accused of giving a cell phone to an inmate, having a shark fin, or something more serious, you need expert representation to fight against well financed police and prosecutors. Long Beach criminal lawyer Matthew Kaestner has over 26 years experience handling all types of criminal cases from DUI to first degree murder. He is one of the few criminal lawyers in Long Beach who are certified by the State Bar of California as specialists in criminal law. Long Beach criminal attorney Matthew Kaestner will personally take your call, answer your questions and, if necessary, personally handle all aspects of your case. Call him directly at (562) 437-0200.

For information about new laws in 2011, go to the page entitled "New Laws in California for 2011." [Click here.] For information about new laws in 2010, go to the page "New Laws in 2010." [Click here.]