Serving Time in Custody Now Credited at $125 Per Day
Effective January 1, 2016, Assembly Bill (AB) 1375 was passed into law, increasing the value of custody credit from $30 per day to $125 per day. The law was unclear, however, on whether $125 applied to just base fines or also to penalties and assessments.
On September 28, 2016, the Governor then signed AB 2839 into law, stating that the new custody credit applied to the base fine only. This is significant, as the reader may know, because penalties and assessments added later are based upon the amount of the base fine. So, having the $125 apply to only to the base fine can eliminate up to $500 per day, rather than just $125 if the $125 amount applied to the base fine and penalties and assessments.
The issue then became whether AB 2839 would apply retroactively to defendants sentenced between January 1, 2016 and September 28, 2016 and the new $125 rate would be applicable solely toward the base fine.
While this issue arose and was being ironed out by our courts, some courts and judges have yet to recognize this and are “short-changing” defendants with the pre-AB 1375 rate ($30 credit per day). Others are applying the $125 credit to both fines and penalties and assessments.
This article is an attempt to spread awareness of AB 2839 and stop this. We believe this was caused because after 1375 was passed, its provisions were revealed as ambiguous and judges were hesitant to apply such a law because it was considered ripe for repeal. AB 2839 was then passed, but judges were not clear if it applied retroactively to January 1, 2016 and waited for further guidance on this issue.
People v. Juan Carranza (2016) 6 Cal.App.5th Supp. 17, 212 Cal.Rptr. 3d 341 is the case that provides this clarity. It is good to know a bit about this case, originating in Los Angeles County, if citing to it.
The Carranza case was actually a consolidated appeal of many cases and brought to light the problem with AB 1375. AB 1375, as written, did not change Penal Code § 1205(a) or Penal Code § 2900.5(a) to require that credits be applied to all fines, including penalty assessments, as provided by People v. McGarry (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 644, 647, 117 Cal.Rptr.2d 475.
At the time of each defendant's sentencing in the consolidated cases, courts were required to use the McGarry method based on the total fines imposed, including penalty assessments, rather than applying credits solely to the base fines. This resulted in some defendants owing more than if the $125 credit was applied to just the base fine.
The Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court, however, found that applying credits to just the base fines was “compelled by fundamental rules of statutory construction and is not unconstitutional.”
As mentioned above, the issue was addressed by the Governor on September 28, 2016, when he signed into law Assembly Bill No. 2839 (AB 2839), requiring that courts apply the $125 per day custody credit solely to base fines. AB 2839, however, was not enacted as emergency legislation — which would have made the new provisions effective upon being signed — and the statute did not expressly state it should be applied to defendants who, as in the consolidated Carranza appeals, were sentenced after January 1, 2016, but prior to when AB 2839 was signed.
However, the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court (P.J. Ricciardulli writing) found that the legislative history of AB 2839 makes very clear that the new law's provisions apply to defendants who were sentenced during this interim period. Moreover, because the new law lessens defendants' punishment, the rule of In re Estrada (1965) 63 Cal.2d 740, 48 Cal.Rptr. 172, 408 P.2d 948 (Estrada ), requires that the law be applied retroactively.
We like this opinion because it clarifies the correct application of the new $125 credit for each day a defendant serves in custody, hopefully leading to more clerks applying the new rate in a correct manner.