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California Court Rules: No Early Release for Violent Criminals

On January 3rd, California’s supreme court ruled that all incarcerated violent criminals will not be eligible for early release under any circumstances. This ruling by the Supreme Court responds to recent attempts by inmates in California looking to use the broad terms listed in California’s Proposition 57 as justification for parole eligibility. This decision impacts numerous inmates whose primary offenses were nonviolent but hold secondary violent offenses, therefore believing they could be eligible.

What is Proposition 57?

In 2016, Governor Jerry Brown successfully voted in Proposition 57, allowing parole consideration for nonviolent felons in California once they have served full time for their principal offense. The proposition would benefit inmates who are still incarcerated for multiple nonviolent offenses. Early opponents of the proposition worried that it would allow many violent criminals to go free due to potentially improper classification of their crime as nonviolent. Proposition 57 was found to be vague to many, opening the door to numerous different interpretations of its meaning.

Impact California Inmates

Due to Proposition 57’s broad nature, many inmates believed they were eligible for parole. Inmate Mohammad Mohammad argued that he should be eligible for parole after three years under the plain and literal language of proposition 57. His primary offense was nonviolent, so he saw no reason why he shouldn’t be eligible under the law. Proposition 57 was unclear if inmates would be eligible if they held secondary violent offenses, and California’s high court was needed to settle the dispute.

The Ruling

The California high court ruled that violent felonies of any degree are not classified under nonviolent offenders and therefore are not eligible for parole. Essentially, even if their top offense were nonviolent, they would not be eligible at all if they held any additional violent offense. In addition, the court ruled that nonviolent sex offenses were not eligible for parole either, a retraction from a previous 2020 ruling. Mohammad’s lawyer is disappointed in this result and may try again. She believes that there is no reason why inmates should not be eligible for parole once their violent felony sentence has been reached. Maybe inmates with mixed offenses such as Mohammad may become eligible for parole at some point soon.

If you or a loved one needs help navigating your case, an experienced attorney at The Nieves Law Firm could help. Schedule your appointment today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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