Are Misdemeanors Punishable by One Year or 364 Days in Jail? (SB 1242)
What’s the difference between spending 365 days in jail and 364 days in jail? Turns out, this makes a big difference. That’s why California recently passed Senate Bill 1242 into law. This bill provides that all misdemeanor crimes will retroactively have a maximum sentence not to exceed 364 days. For California residents, this new law has important effects on how a past conviction is interpreted by state and federal governments.
California law and federal law previously had different definitions for what was classified as a misdemeanor crime. Federal law defined it as a crime punishable by up to 364 days in county jail, and any sentence longer than that would be considered a felony. California law defined misdemeanors as crimes punishable by up to 365 days in county jail.
Due to this difference of one day, the federal government did not recognize California’s definition of a misdemeanor. This meant that several low level and non-violent crimes could be considered felons under federal law.
To address the difference, California passed SB 1310 into law to ensure California’s definition of a misdemeanor would align with the federal government’s. However, this change did not apply to convictions that took place prior to 2015.
Effects of the New Law (SB 1242)
With the passing of this law, all misdemeanor crimes are punishable by 364 days in jail. A person who was sentenced to a one year term prior to Jan. 1, 2015 can now submit an application to the court where the conviction occurred to have the term of the sentence modified. But why would you do this if you’re no longer in jail?
The distinction between one year and 364 days is an important one. Without this distinction, immigrants who became legal residents and were convicted of non-violent crimes were subject to deportation. Under the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, specific crimes can result in a resident being deported.
An individual convicted of a misdemeanor crime with a 365 day sentence would face deportation under federal law, regardless of time served. This means a legal immigrant who served only one month with the remainder of the 365 day sentence suspended could possibly be deported. This new law has been passed to ensure that any individual who was convicted of a misdemeanor crime, past or present, will not have to face deportation under federal law. This will help prevent legal residents from being ripped away from their families and lives in California.
Contact the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it’s important to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney right away. At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal defense attorneys have over 40 years of experience successfully providing our clients with the best possible defense for their case. Let us help you now.
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