Law Change: SB 81 expands use of mitigating circumstances

SB 81 is a new law that changes how enhancements are handled in criminal cases. Enhancements are additional punishments that can be added to a sentence based on specific circumstances, such as the use of a weapon or the commission of a crime while on probation.

Under the new law, when a court is considering an enhancement, they must consider evidence offered by the defendant that establishes the presence of mitigating circumstances. These circumstances include factors such as a disparate racial impact, the connection of the current offense to mental illness or prior victimization, or a prior juvenile adjudication that triggers the enhancement. If the court finds that any of these factors are present, it “weighs greatly in favor” of dismissing the enhancement, unless there is a likelihood that the defendant would cause physical injury or serious danger to others.

In addition, the new law provides specific circumstances in which enhancements must be dismissed. These circumstances include cases where multiple enhancements are alleged in a single case, where the application of an enhancement could result in a sentence of over 20 years, or where the enhancement is based on a prior conviction that is over five years old. If a firearm was used in the current offense, but it was inoperable or unloaded, the enhancement will also be dismissed.

It’s important to note that this new law is not retroactive, meaning it only applies to cases going forward and not to cases that have already been decided. If you are currently facing criminal charges and an enhancement is being considered, it’s important to talk to a lawyer who can help you understand how this new law might impact your case.