There are many questions about California’s criminal justice realignment plan. The cornerstone of this plan is the restructuring of California’s sentencing laws. As of October 1, 2011, most “non-strike” offenses will be served in county jail rather than state prison. However, people should not mistake these “county jail felonies” for probationary sentences. Here’s an example:
Let’s say someone is convicted of possession for sale of methamphetamine in violation of Health and Safety Code Section 11378. Under realignment, there are two sentencing options: 1) A sentence of 16 months, two years, or three years in county jail OR 2) Probation which may include time in the county jail.
This distinction between the two options is important. Until now, county time on a felony was often the part of a probationary sentence, now both a sentence to a county jail felony and a probationary sentence can both include county jail time. However, if a person is sentenced to the county jail felony and not probation, he or she will suffer many of the same collateral consequences of being sent to state prison. The two most significant of these consequences is that a county jail felony counts as a “state prison prior” in any future felony cases and county jail felonies are not eligible for dismissal under California Penal Code 1203.4 (commonly called “expungement”).
Defendants and criminal defense lawyers must be very careful to understand that just because someone is sentenced to county jail, the sentence is not probation unless the judge specifically designates the county time as a term of the probationary sentence.
If you or a loved one have questions about criminal justice realignment call a qualified criminal defense attorney, Jerod Gunsberg is available for consultations at (310) 210-0744.