Governor Signs SB 620 Allowing Judges to Strike Unwarranted Sentence Enhancements
SACRAMENTO – This afternoon, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 620 into law, updating mandated sentencing enhancements for felony cases in which a firearm was used. This bill, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, changes current law which prohibits judges from striking or dismissing a firearm sentence enhancement and allows judges to determine on a case-by-case basis as to whether or not a 10-year, 20-year or life-term extension is justified.
“Far too many people of color are disproportionately impacted by our state’s overly punitive sentencing laws, which tie the hands of our judges,” said Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). “We must provide judges with the same level of discretion at sentencing as we afford prosecutors when filing charges.”
California judges can use their discretion to dismiss almost every other sentencing enhancement at the time of sentencing or resentencing, but current state law prohibits judges from doing so with mandatory firearm enhancements, which come in the form of an additional sentence of 10 years, 20 years, or life. SB 620 does not eliminate firearm sentence enhancements, but instead it simply affords judges the opportunity to look at the facts of each case on an individual basis to ensure that the punishment fits the nature and severity of the crime, as well as an individual’s involvement in that crime.
“SB 620 is a critical step toward a more fair and equitable justice system in California,” said Lizzie Buchen, Legislative Advocate with the ACLU of California, which sponsored the measure. “For far too long, extreme sentencing enhancements have fueled mass incarceration, failed to deter crimes, and disproportionately ensnared people of color.”
“With the signing of this bill, I hope to continue my work with the Governor, my colleagues in the Legislature and remarkable organizations such as the ACLU, who are championing these necessary sentencing reforms,” continued Senator Bradford. “These reforms will have tremendous impacts on individuals and families throughout the state. We will save lives, instead of throwing them away.”
Senator Bradford represents the Los Angeles County communities of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lennox, San Pedro, Watts, Willowbrook, and Wilmington.