Sentencing Enhancements: New Law Change Offers Opportunity to Fight Excessive Charges in the Interests of Justice

Enhancements: The Prosecution Tool to Maximize Potential Punishment

Sentencing enhancements are allegations made by the District Attorney that attach to an underlying charge that increase, or “enhance”, punishment for that crime. There are conduct enhancements, such as an allegation that an assault or other offense was committed with “great bodily injury” (See Cal. Penal Code § 12022.7(a)), and status enhancements, that apply to repeat offenders, such as an allegation of a prior strike (Cal. Penal Code § 1192.7/667(d)) or previous serious felony when a current serious felony is charged (See Cal. Penal Code § 667(a)(1)).

Enhancements can add years and sometimes even increase punishment to the point where the client may be facing a life sentence. Luckily, the Legislature has amended a standing statute that now allows the Judge great discretion in dismissing enhancements in the interests of justice under a variety of circumstances related to the client and the alleged offense, provided an effective advocate can demonstrate to the Court that such dismissal is in fact in the interests of justice. (See Cal. Penal Code § 1385).

The Benefits of the Amended Version of Penal Code Section 1385

Under Penal Code section 1385, the defense can invite the Court to exercise its discretion in the interests of justice to dismiss either type of enhancement:

1385.  

(a) The judge or magistrate may, either on motion of the court or upon the application of the prosecuting attorney, and in furtherance of justice, order an action to be dismissed. The reasons for the dismissal shall be stated orally on the record. The court shall also set forth the reasons in an order entered upon the minutes if requested by either party or in any case in which the proceedings are not being recorded electronically or reported by a court reporter. A dismissal shall not be made for any cause that would be ground of demurrer to the accusatory pleading.

(b) (1) If the court has the authority pursuant to subdivision (a) to strike or dismiss an enhancement, the court may instead strike the additional punishment for that enhancement in the furtherance of justice in compliance with subdivision (a).

(2) This subdivision does not authorize the court to strike the additional punishment for any enhancement that cannot be stricken or dismissed pursuant to subdivision (a).

(c) (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the court shall dismiss an enhancement if it is in the furtherance of justice to do so, except if dismissal of that enhancement is prohibited by any initiative statute.

(2) In exercising its discretion under this subdivision, the court shall consider and afford great weight to evidence offered by the defendant to prove that any of the mitigating circumstances in subparagraphs (A) to (I) are present. Proof of the presence of one or more of these circumstances weighs greatly in favor of dismissing the enhancement, unless the court finds that dismissal of the enhancement would endanger public safety. “Endanger public safety” means there is a likelihood that the dismissal of the enhancement would result in physical injury or other serious danger to others.

(3) While the court may exercise its discretion at sentencing, nothing in this subdivision shall prevent a court from exercising its discretion before, during, or after trial or entry of plea.

(A) Application of the enhancement would result in a discriminatory racial impact as described in paragraph (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 745.

(B) Multiple enhancements are alleged in a single case. In this instance, all enhancements beyond a single enhancement shall be dismissed.

(C) The application of an enhancement could result in a sentence of over 20 years. In this instance, the enhancement shall be dismissed.

(D) The current offense is connected to mental illness.

(E) The current offense is connected to prior victimization or childhood trauma.

(F) The current offense is not a violent felony as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5.

(G) The defendant was a juvenile when they committed the current offense or any prior juvenile adjudication that triggers the enhancement or enhancements applied in this case.

(H) The enhancement is based on a prior conviction that is over five years old.

(I) Though a firearm was used in the current offense, it was inoperable or unloaded.

(4) The circumstances listed in paragraph (2) are not exclusive and the court maintains authority to dismiss or strike an enhancement in accordance with subdivision (a).

See Cal. Penal Code §  1385, emphasis added.

Thus, the Court may now dismiss enhancements based on the age of their prior record, because of trauma or mental illness of the client, the punishment resulting would exceed 20 years, multiple enhancements alleged in one case, racial discriminatory impact, and other circumstances where such dismissal would be in the interests of justice.

 

Call Honeychurch & Boyd to Fight to Achieve the Best Result in Your Case

If you or a loved one is currently facing criminal charges in Napa County, Solano County, or Yolo County that include conduct or status enhancements, you need a dedicated, knowledgeable, respected defense team to fight for your freedom. Honeychurch & Boyd has handled countless serious felony cases and will fight to achieve the best result in your case taking advantage of all avenues the law allows. Call us today at 707-429-3111 for a free consultation as to how we can begin the fight on your behalf.

 

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