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Brief Summary of Calif. AB 109 (Realignment), by Request

Feb 10, 2012 | | Law, Legislation, Michael Jackson homicide trial | 1 Comment

My friends @FernandaCamino and @KarlaJorge have asked for my help in summarizing California AB 109, SB 87, and AB 111.  Hopefully the overview below will resolve the questions they have about those laws.  As always, anyone may feel free to ask me questions, and I will do my best to answer them as soon as I have an opportunity to do so.

Thanks to DCBA Law & Policy‘s Stacey Worthy for her research and writing help with this summary.  (Please follow @dcbalaw!)


Together, California Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109), Senate Bill 87 (SB 87), and Assembly Bill 111 (AB 111) were intended to address the fiscal emergency declared on January 20, 2011, pursuant to the California Constitution.[1]

For cost-saving purposes, AB 109 allows non-violent, non-serious, and non sex offenders to serve their sentence in county jails instead of state prisons.[2]  The law took effect on October 1, 2011.

AB 109 distinguishes between offenses that result in a prison sentence and offenses that result in a county jail sentence in two ways. First, it amends the Penal Code to specify which crimes are violent, serious, or sex offenses, therefore resulting in a prison sentence under the reapportioned system.  Second, at the request of law enforcement, it codifies a list of 60 additional crimes that are not defined as serious or violent offenses in the Penal Code but nevertheless must result in a prison sentence rather than a county jail sentence under the reapportioned system. The remainder of crimes that are not listed in either place are classified as non-violent, non-serious crimes and result in a county jail sentence.

Neither the Penal Code nor AB 109 includes involuntary manslaughter as a violent or serious felony leading to sentencing to state prison rather than county jail.  A defendant convicted of involuntary manslaughter on or after October 1, 2011 would serve his or her sentence in a county jail rather than a state prison.

SB 87 provides revenue to counties to cover costs associated with their AB 109 implementation plans.[3]

AB 111 gives funding preference to those counties buying or building jails that had the largest proportion of inmates out of the total inmate population in 2010.

For a list of the offenses for which state prison sentencing remains in effect, see pp. 65 and 79 of the analysis of AB 109 prepared by the California District Attorneys Association.

AP’s October 4, 2011 article also provides a helpful summary of AB 109.  The article states:

“[S]entencing more serious offenders to jail rather than state prison will likely force counties that already have crowded jails to release less serious offenders who are serving time for crimes such as auto theft, burglary, grand theft, forgery, counterfeiting and drug crimes.  Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley is among those complaining that counties will be forced to release lower-level offenders by the thousands before they have served their full terms.”

A California law permitting early release for prisoners, Penal Code Section 4019, is briefly summarized in a January 2010 news release issued by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown.

1 Legislative Counsel’s Digest, Jan. 10, 2011

2 Id.

3 2011 Public Safety Realignment Fact Sheet, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, July 15, 2011, available at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/About_CDCR/docs/Realignment-Fact-Sheet.pdf.



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