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California Supreme Court: CDCR Cannot Exclude Nonviolent Sex Offenders From Proposition 57 Parole Consideration

On December 28, 2020, the Supreme Court of California held that California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) regulations excluding nonviolent sex offenders with from parole consideration under Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (Cal. Const. art. I, § 32), are invalid as the statute expressly applies to any person convicted of a nonviolent felony offense. The court also held that only the offense for which the prisoner is currently serving a sentence can be counted in the analysis.

Section 32 states, “Any person convicted of a nonviolent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense.” It defines “full term” as the longest term of imprisonment excluding enhancements, consecutive sentences, or alternative sentences. It also directs CDCR to “adopt regulations in furtherance of these provisions” and its Secretary to “certify that these regulations protect and enhance public safety.”

Although the final version of the regulations did not exclude nonviolent sex offenders from the definition of nonviolent offenders, it did state that, notwithstanding the definition, nonviolent offenders are not eligible for parole consideration if the “inmate is convicted of a sexual offense that currently requires or will require registration as a sex offender” (Cal. Code Regs. , § 3491). CDCR said the exclusion was for public safety.

Using § 3491, CDCR excluded California prisoner Gregory Gadlin from parole consideration under Prop. 57. Gadlin filed a habeas action in the state Court of Appeals. The Court held Gadlin could not be excluded.

On further review by the state Supreme Court, Gadlin was represented by court-appointed attorneys Michael Satris and Janice M. Bellucci of the Law Office of Janice M. Bellucci in Sacramento. In its ruling, the Court held that the regulations excluding people with prior convictions for sex offenses—including not only violent but also nonviolent sex offenses—were invalid as they contradict the language of § 32 stating that it applies to any person convicted of a nonviolent felony offense.

The Court rejected CDCR’s last-minute attempt to redefine nonviolent sex offenses requiring sex-offender registration registration as violent offenses. In affirming the judgment of the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that eligibility for § 32 parole consideration must be based on the current conviction and may not categorically exclude those convicted of registerable nonviolent sex offenses. See: In re Gadlin, 10 Cal. 5th 915, 272 Cal. Rptr. 3d 879, 477 P.3d 594 (2020).

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Related legal case

In re Gadlin