Attorney Matthew G. Kaestner

Long Beach's Criminal Law Specialist


Voters in California, by way of the initiative process, passed several major new laws in California for 2017 that will have a great impact on citizens and those persons caught up in the criminal justice system. To follow is a summary by Long Beach criminal attorney Matthew Kaestner regarding these new laws.

Perhaps the biggest change in the criminal law for 2017 was the passage of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, or Proposition 64. Persons 21 years and older can legally use, possess or give away under one ounce of marijuana, possess under 8 grams of concentrated cannabis, and grow fewer than 7 plants in a locked space not visible to the public. (With persons under 18 or between 18 and 21 another set of rules applies.)

Almost all former marijuana felonies (sales, transportation for sales, and possession for sale) are now punishable by only a misdemeanor. Maintaining a place where marijuana is sold, manufactured or stored is still a felony as is the manufacture of oil using volatile solvents such as butane. Persons with old marijuana felonies can apply to have them reduced to misdemeanors. Persons with old marijuana misdemeanors can apply to have them dismissed.

Juvenile offenders 14 and above can no longer be directly filed into adult court by prosecutors. Now, in order to have a juvenile tried as an adult, the prosecution must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the minor is not a fit subject for juvenile Court. (Proposition 57.)

Solitary confinement for juvenile offenders will also be limited to no more than 4 hours except in circumstances requiring that the reason be documented, a plan for reintegration developed and written facility superintendent authorization every four hours thereafter.

Also under Proposition 57, offenders serving prison sentences for certain “non-violent” offenses can be eligible for parole after serving the “full term” for their most serious charge taking away all enhancements and consecutive sentences. The CDCR will develop regulations as to how they will carry out the mandates of Proposition 57 and what sort of good behavior, rehabilitation and education will earn an early release.

Employers may no longer ask an employee or prospective new hire about their juvenile record. It is now a misdemeanor for most public and private employers to ask about any juvenile matter or about any adult matter that didn’t result in a conviction or where the conviction was expunged. (Labor Code sections 432.7 and 433.)

New laws affecting firearms include making it a felony to steal a gun with a value of under $950. Most other thefts under $950 are petty theft. It is an infraction to not report the theft of one’s own gun to law enforcement within 5 days of discovery of the theft. New Penal Code section 27880 limits persons to whom you may loan your gun to; they include your spouse, domestic partner, grandparent/grandchild, parents, children or siblings. Penal Code section 30306 (b) makes it a misdemeanor to provide ammunition to someone who is prohibited from having ammunition.

Children under 18 years of age can no longer be prosecuted for prostitution, though they can be taken into custody as possible exploited children under dependency laws.

Under new Penal Code section 523(b), the placement of ransomeware on another person’s computer is now considered extortion and punishable by up to 4 years in custody.

Prosecutors who alter, modify or withhold any physical matter, digital image, video recording, or relevant exculpatory material or information, knowing that it is relevant and material with the intent that it will be concealed or destroyed, or fraudulently represented as the original evidence, are punishable with a felony and up to 3 years under new Penal Code section 141 (c).

New Penal Code section 859.5 requires that jailhouse interrogations of murder suspects be recorded. There are of course many exceptions.

Wrongfully convicted folks and immigrants now have a new vehicle to set aside a prior conviction. New Penal Code section 1473.7 allows persons not in custody, and therefore not entitled to a traditional “habeas corpus” motion, to attack the validity of the prior conviction on the grounds that there is new evidence of innocence or a “prejudicial error” damaging the moving party’s ability to … understand, defend against, or knowingly accept the actual or potential adverse immigration consequences of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere.

The statute of limitations (the amount of time the government has to commence a prosecution after a crime) for most sex crimes has been eliminated and most sexual assault offenses can now be commenced at any time after their commission.

And finally, we will all feel a little safer when we use an app to get a ride. Starting July 1, 2018, it shall be unlawful for a person who has 0.04 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a motor vehicle when a passenger for hire is … in the vehicle. [Vehicle Code section 23152(e)]

The above is certainly not an exhaustive list of all new laws for 2017, but likely a list of the ones that will receive the most attention. If you have a question about any of these new laws or any of the old ones or you have been arrested or accused of violating one of them, contact Long Beach criminal lawyer Matthew Kaestner directly. He can be reached at (562) 437-0200.