Designed to address what many see as an overreaching and ineffective supervision system throughout the state of California, Assembly Bill 1950 tackles the difficult task of probation reform. By extension, addressing probation reform is likely to help reduce the number of inmates in prison due to probation violations, and reduce the associated costs. Signed into law by Governor Newsom at the beginning of October 2020, AB 1950 promises to cap probation for a large number of offenses relevant to criminal defense.

What Is AB 1950?

As a probation reform bill, AB 1950 aims to restructure the California probation system. In cases of misdemeanors and felonies that carry a jail sentence, or charges that carry a mandatory probationary period, probation is intended to serve as a way to reduce or eliminate prison time in exchange for a period of monitoring and supervision. Ideally, supervision prevents individuals from re-offending or committing new crimes, and helps more people keep their freedom while reducing the financial and physical strain on the prison system.

However, probation often lasts for a period of several years and not only fails to alleviate costs, but also often fails to provide the rehabilitation intended; some 8% of the current prison population in California consists of parole violators. In fact, studies from none other than the US Department of Justice indicate that probation has a limited positive effect past the two-year mark, leading experts to conclude that probation terms extending into a third year are not only ineffective, but detrimental to the state and the probation population.

In light of this information, AB 1950 serves to reduce probation terms for many crimes. AB 1950 caps probation periods for numerous sentences, including:

  • 1-year probation cap for most misdemeanor violations
  • 2-year probation cap for most felony violations

What Violations Does AB 1950 Affect?

AB 1950 is a broad probation reform bill that impacts a large number of violations – including some drug offenses – within California’s Penal Code and Health & Safety Code. In fact, it is far simpler to discuss the violations AB 1950 does not impact. Generally speaking, AB 1950 does not shorten probation terms for the following misdemeanors or felonies:

  • Violations with mandatory terms. AB 1950 does not apply to any misdemeanors or felonies that include a mandatory probation period length within the sentencing provisions, including domestic violence and DUI.
  • Violent offenses. Violent offenses include but are not limited to child abuse, domestic abuse, violations of restraining orders, witness intimidation, felony assault, assault with a deadly weapon, child abduction, stalking, murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, arson, and other similar offenses.
  • Certain felony financial offenses. AB 1950 does not apply to theft, embezzlement, fraud, and other similar offenses if they resulted in losses of over $25,000.

Does AB 1950 Apply to You?

The language provided in AB 1950 specifically states that its 1- and 2-year probation caps are applicable effective January 1, 2021. Therefore, any relevant crimes committed either on or after that date are subject to the new rules. In addition, according to precedent case law – specifically In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, People v. Chavez (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 971 and People v. McKenzie (2020) 4 Cal.5th 771 – crimes committed before January 1, 2021 that have not yet reached final disposition or are pending sentencing will also include probation terms aligning with AB 1950.

Crimes occurring and sentenced before January 1, 2021 are also likely to be subject to AB 1950. Esteemed retired Judge J. Richard Couzens has penned a memorandum on the bill and states that, should a defendant request an order that terminates probation according to the guidelines set in place by AB 1950, following said guidelines would be appropriate. However, if you have committed a probation violation and are under a warrant issued before January 1, 2021, AB 1950 would not preclude the court from violating an offender’s probation notwithstanding the AB 1950’s requirements would have already resulted in a termination of the probation period.

AB 1950 Provides Welcome Relief For an Overtaxed System

The current probation laws in place in the state of California provide undue stress on the legal system and the individuals under constant scrutiny and surveillance even after they have served the necessary jail sentences. Worse, such terms are costly, fail to provide the necessary services to prevent recidivism, and are relatively ineffective at bridging the gaps between the circumstances surrounding crime and reentry into society. Measures like AB 1950 can serve to provide much-needed relief to people and the penal system alike.

If you believe your probation period can be immediately terminated pursuant to AB 1950, reach out to an Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer to discuss your case. Attorney Christopher J. McCann is a skilled trial lawyer with years of experience helping clients achieve their best interests in difficult circumstances. Contact the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann, APC. for a consultation today.