SB 81: Increased Guidance and Requirement for Court Dismissal of Certain Enhancements

150. That is the number of sentence enhancements you could theoretically face when charged with a crime. If you or a loved one (such as your child) are facing criminal charges that could include time in jail or prison, this is an especially concerning reality. Especially because enhancements increase the penalty of the original crime, meaning more time in custody if convicted. 

Simply put, an enhancement is an additional circumstance (either occurring during the crime itself or in a defendant’s criminal history) that increases the underlying crime’s sentence. According to a Cal Matters article from earlier this year, 80% of people serving a term in State Prison have a sentence enhancement keeping them there longer. Additionally, more than 25% have sentences extended by three (or more!) enhancements.

Fortunately, Senate Bill 81 addresses the issue of excessive use of enhancements. Clear guidance requires courts to dismiss enhancements under certain circumstances and to afford great weight to evidence offered by a defendant. As a direct result, your case might just have a much better outcome than it would have in the very recent past. 


While a previous form of the law gave a judge the authority to strike or dismiss certain enhancements “in the furtherance of justice,” Senate Bill 81 requires a court to dismiss certain enhancements if it is determined to be “in the furtherance of justice. While it may sound like a subtle shift, the difference for a defendant’s final sentence can be significant. 

As outlined in SB 81, as long as doing so wouldn’t “endanger public safety,” dismissal is likely (though still at the court’s discretion) when the following things are true of an enhancement:

  • Applying the enhancement would result in a discriminatory racial impact;
  • Multiple enhancements are alleged (all but a single enhancement will be dismissed);
  • Applying the enhancement would result in a sentence of over 20 years;
  • Mental illness is connected to the current offense;
  • Prior victimization or childhood trauma is connected to the current offense;
  • The current offense being charged is not a violent felony. Violent felonies are not eligible for enhancement dismissal;
  • The defendant was a juvenile when they committed the current offense or any past conviction that triggered enhancement(s);
  • A prior conviction that is over five years old is the cause of the enhancement;
  • If a firearm was used in the current offense, it was inoperable or unloaded. If a gun is operable and loaded the enhancement is not eligible for dismissal.

While many of these conditions are straightforward, others, including mental illness and childhood trauma or prior victimization can require extensive proof. This is where it is vital to have a proper defense to present compelling proof that dismissing your enhancement would be “in the furtherance of justice.”


Fortunately, if you qualify for an enhancement dismissal, the odds are stacked in your favor. The court is required to consider and “afford great weight” to evidence by the defendant proving mitigating circumstances. Successfully presenting one or more mitigating circumstances makes dismissal highly likely if one of the aforementioned circumstances is true of your case.

While there is great opportunity in the disclosure of mitigating circumstances, it can be understandably hard to disclose a mental health and/or trauma-related issue that contributed to your case. We know it can be hard to trust again after hardships related to adverse experiences. In a previous post, we outlined the impact trauma can have on a young brain and we know that impact can last well into and throughout adulthood.

This is why it’s very important to find an attorney you can trust. At Proper Defense, we know that the attorney-client relationship is the most important piece of your legal puzzle by far. Giving you peace of mind and sound guidance is not only our promise but what you can expect from the right representation for you.

As our philosophy states, confidence and trust are foundational pillars of this very special relationship between two people, one unlike any other professional or personal association.  This is the only relationship that involves truly secret communication. An attorney takes what you say to the grave. This level of confidence can help you disclose what you need in order to make your best case so that you can return to life as you deserve it to be lived.

By hiring a skilled attorney at Proper Defense we will work with you to learn what mitigating factors need to be presented to the court to get you the lowest punishment possible. Our attorneys file briefs with supporting documents laying out what factors should be considered in your favor. One of our main focuses is conveying who our clients are to the court and the DA through both writing and oral advocacy. 


We know that going through the legal process can be incredibly stressful, and we are here to make this process as straightforward as possible. The support you need is a phone call away.

For a true advocate that you can trust, in a judgment-free zone, contact Proper Defense Law Corporation today. For a FREE consultation in the Fresno area, call (559) 825-3800. You can reach us at our Beverly Hills location by calling (424) 284-4066. You can also schedule an appointment online on our Contact Us page. It gets better with Proper Defense, we promise.

In addition to this information, other resources available to you can be found by searches such as: sb 81 california passed, sb 81 california update, sb 81 california 2021, new enhancement laws in california 2021, sb 81 enhancements, did sb 81 pass, what is sb 81, when does sb 81 take effect, gun enhancement law changes 2021, senate bill for enhancements, fewer enhancements california law, fewer enhancements california 2021, is sb 81 retroactive, enhancement law changes 2020, enhancements examples, what are enhancements in court sentence, enhancement definition, enhancements meaning, what is an enhancement, examples of enhancements california law, mitigating circumstances examples, mitigating circumstances in a sentence, mitigating circumstances in criminal law, and enhancements lawyer near me free consultation.

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