AB 256 Corrects Mistake in CA Racial Justice Act
In 2020, the California State Legislature passed the California Racial Justice Act, which prohibited the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction, or from imposing a sentence, based upon race, ethnicity or national origin. The Act made it possible for a person charged or convicted of a crime to challenge the ruling if they believe there racial bias in their case. The major limitation of the bill was that it only applied to cases opened after January 1, 2021. In September of 2022, AB 256 was signed into law. The aim of AB 256 is to correct that error from the 2020 bill. AB 256 is trying to take the history of racially biased policing into account by extending the protections of the California Racial Justice Act to people who were impacted by potentially racially-biased convictions and sentences before January 1, 2021, allowing people to seek justice retroactively.
The bill provides a legal outlet to stop the state from seeking a criminal conviction if it can be proved that a law enforcement officer involved in the case exhibited racial bias. This law has the potential to give civilians and formerly and currently incarcerated people greater power to hold police accountable, but only if it can be proved that a police officer’s actions were racially biased. Due to the need to provide evidence of racially biased policing, this bill makes individual police officer data, as well as department-wide data, especially valuable. Moreover, by staying vigilant and aware of police activity, copwatching will be a crucial element of deducing where and how racially biased policing occurred and for uncovering relevant patterns of racially-biased police misconduct.