Press Release

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation Protecting Prisoners and Their Families

SB 614 clarifies the law to ensure prisoners serving a year or more in jail receive the same access to legal representation as those in prison

September 23, 2016

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown today signed legislation by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, to correct an oversight of law created by the state’s 2011 public safety realignment that denies long-term county jail inmates the same rights to legal representation they would receive if they were in state prison.

SB 614 eliminates a discrepancy in law that came to light in a recent ruling in The People v. Prescott case. Under state law, defendants serving more than a year in state prison are presumed to be unable to pay for legal defense and therefore granted access to free legal representation. A recently issued court decision, however, said that state statute does not apply to those sentenced to county jail, even if the sentence is more than a year.

“Legal representation in this country should not depend on income level or where time is served. It is one of the foundations of our legal system,” Hertzberg said. “This legislation corrects an oversight in the law to ensure that the families of a defendant aren’t penalized by the prisoner’s placement in jail rather than prison.” 

In 2011, California enacted a sweeping realignment of its public safety system designed to lower the state prison population by changing where lower-level offenders serve time – from state prisons to county jails. At the time, the impact on defense fees was overlooked.

The bill is sponsored by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

"We are grateful to Senator Hertzberg and Governor Brown for standing with families who are unjustly burdened by the criminal justice system,” said Jennifer Kim of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. "This new law will bring much-needed economic relief for low income families in California."


Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map at  After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. Learn more at

Communications Director
Senator Robert M. Hertzberg
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 651-4018



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