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Racial Justice Act Would Give Defendants a Way to Challenge Bias

July 28, 2020

The bill would allow individuals to challenge an arrest or conviction without having to prove intentional discrimination.

Racial Justice Act Would Give Defendants a Way to Challenge Bias

There are many issues with the California criminal justice system. From prison overcrowding to a cash bail system that favors the wealthy, reform groups have identified many problems with the system.

One of the biggest issues in the California criminal justice system is racial injustice. Black and Latinx individuals are far more likely to be arrested and convicted of a crime in California than other racial groups, and to serve a longer sentence for a similar crime. According to a criminal lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, a new piece of legislation aims to change that reality.

The California Racial Justice Act, Assembly Bill 2542, would prohibit the state from convicting or sentencing a person based on their race, ethnicity or national origin. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyperson Ash Kalra, and was co-authored by state senators Steve Bradford, Holly Mitchell and Lena Gonzalez. A number of organizations have offered their support for the bill, including the American Friends Service Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Californians United for a Responsible Budget, Ella Baker Center for Human rights, the League of Women Voters of California, and NextGen.

Under the Racial Justice Act, a person who has been charged or convicted of a crime could challenge racial bias based on:

  • Explicit bias from an attorney, law enforcement officer, juror, judge, or expert witness;
  • Bias in jury selection;
  • The use of racially discriminatory language during court hearings or at trial;
  • Charing or convicting people of one race at a higher rate; or
  • Giving people of one race harsher sentences.

This act is meant to counter a 1987 Supreme Court decision, McCleskey v. Kemp, which requires defendants to prove intentional discrimination when challenging racial bias.

If this bill became law, it could be used by a seasoned criminal lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga, CA to fight back against racial bias in the criminal justice system. For example, if a Latino man is being tried on a burglary charge, and the prosecutor manages to remove all Latinx jurors from the jury pool, an attorney could argue that this demonstrates bias in jury selection. In other situations, people who have been convicted of certain crimes may be able to challenge their convictions based on data that shows that Black people (for example) receive sentences that are two to three times longer for the same crime as people of other races.

If you have been charged with a crime in California, you will need an aggressive criminal lawyer in Rancho Cucamonga, CA to fight for your rights. The Chambers Law Firm is dedicated to helping people who have been charged with a range of offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our team.

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