Attorney Matthew G. Kaestner

Long Beach's Criminal Law Specialist


Every year the California legislature enacts new criminal laws to control the conduct of Californians.  The following is a brief review of some of those new criminal laws provided by Long Beach attorney and criminal law specialist, Matthew Kaestner.

Legalization of the possession of marijuana for personal use was voted down in November of 2010, however, the legislature passed a bill making the possession, for personal use, of under an ounce of marijuana, an infraction.  This wasn't a big change, however, and may actually hurt persons accused of possessing under an ounce of marijuana.  Prior to the decriminalization of possessing under an ounce, the maximum penalty was a $100 fine and no jail could be imposed.  The new law makes the punishment, once again, a maximum $100 fine.

The "decriminalization" of marijuana has upsides and downsides.  The upside is that a conviction is for an infraction only, not a misdemeanor.  Thus, the offense is no longer a "crime."  The downside is that since the offense is an infraction, contesting the charge can no longer be done in front of a jury.  Persons charged with infractions are entitled to a judge trial only and not a jury trial.

For pranksters or persons with genuine fraudulent intent, it is now a crime to impersonate another on a website or by other electronic means.  New Penal Code section 528.5 would make this crime a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail.  Persons injured by such impersonation may now also use this law to sue for money damages in civil court.

Women who are pregnant or have dependent children and are sentenced to prison would be able to apply for an alternative custody program to include confinement to a residential home, a residential drug or treatment program, or a transitional care facility that offers appropriate services. (Penal Code sections 1170.05 and 4532.)

The crime of grand theft has now been amended to reflect inflation.  Now property of a value over $950 must be taken before a theft is considered a "grand theft." The grand theft statute, Penal Code section 487 previously required the theft of $400 or more.

Persons under the age of 21 who call 911 to report that they or persons with them need medical attention due to the consumption of alcohol will have limited immunity from prosecution for purchasing or consuming alcohol underage. (Amends Bus. & Prof. Code sections 25658 and 25662, and adds sec. 25667.)

Other new criminal laws this year increase the penalties for unlawfully renting out someone else's dwelling(Penal Code section 602.9); or entering an animal enclosure at a zoo, public aquarium, circus or traveling animal exhibit, if posted as specified to prohibit entrance.  (Penal Code sect. 602.13.)

For persons accused of sex crimes, numerous provisions of "Chelsea’s law" became effective September 9, 2010. The series of new laws entitled "The Chelsea King Child Predator Prevention Act of 2010," created many new and dramatically increased sex offense penalties. 

Key elements of Chelsea's Law are: 1.) One strike: Violent sexual crimes against a person under 14 carry a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. 2.) Forcible sex crimes, depending on circumstances, can carry 25-years to life. 3.) Lifetime parole: Habitual sex offenders to be monitored with GPS for life; others will have to wear tracking systems longer, depending on the crime. 4.) Parks: Sex offenders on parole can not enter parks. 5.) Evaluations: Sex offenders are evaluated for possible identification as a mentally disordered offender. Under previous law, the offender could escape the label if the two evaluators disagree. Under the new law, a split decision by evaluators would still result in the case moving to the hearing phase instead of stopping. 6.) Internet postings: Registered sex offenders will have their risk assessment scores posted on the Megan’s Law website,

In 2011, whether you're accused of entering the monkey cage at the zoo, or something more serious, you need expert representation when you go to court. Long Beach attorney Matthew Kaestner has over 25 years experience handling criminal cases from murder to DUI. He is one of only five 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 is available now to personally take your call and 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.]