California Penal Code 1170 PC is the state’s felony sentencing statute. People convicted of certain lower-level, non-violent felonies can serve their sentence in a county jail rather than California State Prison. Judges can grant suspended sentences, where defendants avoid serving jail time as long as they complete the terms of probation. And if an inmate is terminally ill, the judge can grant compassionate release.
The full text of the statute reads as follows:
1170 (a) (1) The Legislature finds and declares that the purpose of sentencing is public safety achieved through punishment, rehabilitation, and restorative justice. When a sentence includes incarceration, this purpose is best served by terms that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offense with provision for uniformity in the sentences of offenders committing the same offense under similar circumstances.
(2) The Legislature further finds and declares that programs should be available for inmates, including, but not limited to, educational, rehabilitative, and restorative justice programs that are designed to promote behavior change and to prepare all eligible offenders for successful reentry into the community. The Legislature encourages the development of policies and programs designed to educate and rehabilitate all eligible offenders. In implementing this section, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is encouraged to allow all eligible inmates the opportunity to enroll in programs that promote successful return to the community. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is directed to establish a mission statement consistent with these principles.
(3) In any case in which the sentence prescribed by statute for a person convicted of a public offense is a term of imprisonment in the state prison, or a term pursuant to subdivision (h), of any specification of three time periods, the court shall sentence the defendant to one of the terms of imprisonment specified unless the convicted person is given any other disposition provided by law, including a fine, jail, probation, or the suspension of imposition or execution of sentence or is sentenced pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 1168 because they had committed their crime prior to July 1, 1977. In sentencing the convicted person, the court shall apply the sentencing rules of the Judicial Council. The court, unless it determines that there are circumstances in mitigation of the sentence prescribed, shall also impose any other term that it is required by law to impose as an additional term. Nothing in this article shall affect any provision of law that imposes the death penalty, that authorizes or restricts the granting of probation or suspending the execution or imposition of sentence, or expressly provides for imprisonment in the state prison for life, except as provided in paragraph (2) of subdivision (d). In any case in which the amount of preimprisonment credit under Section 2900.5 or any other provision of law is equal to or exceeds any sentence imposed pursuant to this chapter, except for a remaining portion of mandatory supervision imposed pursuant to subparagraph (B) of paragraph (5) of subdivision (h), the entire sentence shall be deemed to have been served, except for the remaining period of mandatory supervision, and the defendant shall not be actually delivered to the custody of the secretary or the county correctional administrator. The court shall advise the defendant that they shall serve an applicable period of parole, postrelease community supervision, or mandatory supervision and order the defendant to report to the parole or probation office closest to the defendant’s last legal residence, unless the in-custody credits equal the total sentence, including both confinement time and the period of parole, postrelease community supervision, or mandatory supervision. The sentence shall be deemed a separate prior prison term or a sentence of imprisonment in a county jail under subdivision (h) for purposes of Section 667.5, and a copy of the judgment and other necessary documentation shall be forwarded to the secretary.
(b) When a judgment of imprisonment is to be imposed and the statute specifies three possible terms, the court shall order imposition of the middle term, unless there are circumstances in aggravation or mitigation of the crime. At least four days prior to the time set for imposition of judgment, either party or the victim, or the family of the victim if the victim is deceased, may submit a statement in aggravation or mitigation to dispute facts in the record or the probation officer’s report, or to present additional facts. In determining whether there are circumstances that justify imposition of the upper or lower term, the court may consider the record in the case, the probation officer’s report, other reports, including reports received pursuant to Section 1203.03, and statements in aggravation or mitigation submitted by the prosecution, the defendant, or the victim, or the family of the victim if the victim is deceased, and any further evidence introduced at the sentencing hearing. The court shall set forth on the record the facts and reasons for imposing the upper or lower term. The court may not impose an upper term by using the fact of any enhancement upon which sentence is imposed under any provision of law. A term of imprisonment shall not be specified if imposition of sentence is suspended.
(c) The court shall state the reasons for its sentence choice on the record at the time of sentencing. The court shall also inform the defendant that as part of the sentence after expiration of the term they may be on parole for a period as provided in Section 3000 or 3000.08 or postrelease community supervision for a period as provided in Section 3451.
(d)(1) When a defendant subject to this section or subdivision (b) of Section 1168 has been sentenced to be imprisoned in the state prison or a county jail pursuant to subdivision (h) and has been committed to the custody of the secretary or the county correctional administrator, the court may, within 120 days of the date of commitment on its own motion, or at any time upon the recommendation of the secretary or the Board of Parole Hearings in the case of state prison inmates, the county correctional administrator in the case of county jail inmates, or the district attorney of the county in which the defendant was sentenced, recall the sentence and commitment previously ordered and resentence the defendant in the same manner as if they had not previously been sentenced, provided the new sentence, if any, is no greater than the initial sentence. The court resentencing under this subdivision shall apply the sentencing rules of the Judicial Council so as to eliminate disparity of sentences and to promote uniformity of sentencing. The court resentencing under this paragraph may reduce a defendant’s term of imprisonment and modify the judgment, including a judgment entered after a plea agreement, if it is in the interest of justice. The court may consider postconviction factors, including, but not limited to, the inmate’s disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation while incarcerated, evidence that reflects whether age, time served, and diminished physical condition, if any, have reduced the inmate’s risk for future violence, and evidence that reflects that circumstances have changed since the inmate’s original sentencing so that the inmate’s continued incarceration is no longer in the interest of justice. Credit shall be given for time served.
(2)(A)(i) When a defendant who was under 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense for which the defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole has been incarcerated for at least 15 years, the defendant may submit to the sentencing court a petition for recall and resentencing.
(ii) Notwithstanding clause (i), this paragraph shall not apply to defendants sentenced to life without parole for an offense where it was pled and proved that the defendant tortured, as described in Section 206, their victim or the victim was a public safety official, including any law enforcement personnel mentioned in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3, or any firefighter as described in Section 245.1, as well as any other officer in any segment of law enforcement who is employed by the federal government, the state, or any of its political subdivisions.
(B) The defendant shall file the original petition with the sentencing court. A copy of the petition shall be served on the agency that prosecuted the case. The petition shall include the defendant’s statement that the defendant was under 18 years of age at the time of the crime and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the defendant’s statement describing their remorse and work towards rehabilitation, and the defendant’s statement that one of the following is true:
(i) The defendant was convicted pursuant to felony murder or aiding and abetting murder provisions of law.
(ii) The defendant does not have juvenile felony adjudications for assault or other felony crimes with a significant potential for personal harm to victims prior to the offense for which the sentence is being considered for recall.
(iii) The defendant committed the offense with at least one adult codefendant.
(iv) The defendant has performed acts that tend to indicate rehabilitation or the potential for rehabilitation, including, but not limited to, availing themselves of rehabilitative, educational, or vocational programs, if those programs have been available at their classification level and facility, using self-study for self-improvement, or showing evidence of remorse.
(C) If any of the information required in subparagraph (B) is missing from the petition, or if proof of service on the prosecuting agency is not provided, the court shall return the petition to the defendant and advise the defendant that the matter cannot be considered without the missing information.
(D) A reply to the petition, if any, shall be filed with the court within 60 days of the date on which the prosecuting agency was served with the petition, unless a continuance is granted for good cause.
(E) If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one or more of the statements specified in clauses (i) to (iv), inclusive, of subparagraph (B) is true, the court shall recall the sentence and commitment previously ordered and hold a hearing to resentence the defendant in the same manner as if the defendant had not previously been sentenced, provided that the new sentence, if any, is not greater than the initial sentence. Victims, or victim family members if the victim is deceased, shall retain the rights to participate in the hearing.
(F) The factors that the court may consider when determining whether to resentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment with the possibility of parole include, but are not limited to, the following:
(i) The defendant was convicted pursuant to felony murder or aiding and abetting murder provisions of law.
(ii) The defendant does not have juvenile felony adjudications for assault or other felony crimes with a significant potential for personal harm to victims prior to the offense for which the defendant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
(iii) The defendant committed the offense with at least one adult codefendant.
(iv) Prior to the offense for which the defendant was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, the defendant had insufficient adult support or supervision and had suffered from psychological or physical trauma, or significant stress.
(v) The defendant suffers from cognitive limitations due to mental illness, developmental disabilities, or other factors that did not constitute a defense, but influenced the defendant’s involvement in the offense.
(vi) The defendant has performed acts that tend to indicate rehabilitation or the potential for rehabilitation, including, but not limited to, availing themselves of rehabilitative, educational, or vocational programs, if those programs have been available at their classification level and facility, using self-study for self-improvement, or showing evidence of remorse.
(vii) The defendant has maintained family ties or connections with others through letter writing, calls, or visits, or has eliminated contact with individuals outside of prison who are currently involved with crime.
(viii) The defendant has had no disciplinary actions for violent activities in the last five years in which the defendant was determined to be the aggressor.
(G) The court shall have the discretion to resentence the defendant in the same manner as if the defendant had not previously been sentenced, provided that the new sentence, if any, is not greater than the initial sentence. The discretion of the court shall be exercised in consideration of the criteria in subparagraph (F). Victims, or victim family members if the victim is deceased, shall be notified of the resentencing hearing and shall retain their rights to participate in the hearing.
(H) If the sentence is not recalled or the defendant is resentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, the defendant may submit another petition for recall and resentencing to the sentencing court when the defendant has been committed to the custody of the department for at least 20 years. If the sentence is not recalled or the defendant is resentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole under that petition, the defendant may file another petition after having served 24 years. The final petition may be submitted, and the response to that petition shall be determined, during the 25th year of the defendant’s sentence.
(I) In addition to the criteria in subparagraph (F), the court may consider any other criteria that the court deems relevant to its decision, so long as the court identifies them on the record, provides a statement of reasons for adopting them, and states why the defendant does or does not satisfy the criteria.
(J) This subdivision shall have retroactive application.
(K) Nothing in this paragraph is intended to diminish or abrogate any rights or remedies otherwise available to the defendant.
(e)(1) Notwithstanding any other law and consistent with paragraph (1) of subdivision (a), if the secretary determines that a prisoner satisfies the criteria set forth in paragraph (2), the secretary may recommend to the court that the prisoner’s sentence be recalled.
(2) The court shall have the discretion to resentence or recall if the court finds that the facts described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) or subparagraphs (B) and (C) exist:
(A) The prisoner is terminally ill with an incurable condition caused by an illness or disease that would produce death within 12 months, as determined by a physician employed by the department.
(B) The conditions under which the prisoner would be released or receive treatment do not pose a threat to public safety.
(C) The prisoner is permanently medically incapacitated with a medical condition that renders them permanently unable to perform activities of basic daily living, and results in the prisoner requiring 24-hour total care, including, but not limited to, coma, persistent vegetative state, brain death, ventilator-dependency, loss of control of muscular or neurological function, and that incapacitation did not exist at the time of the original sentencing.
(3) Within 10 days of receipt of a positive recommendation by the secretary, the court shall hold a hearing to consider whether the prisoner’s sentence should be recalled.
(4) Any physician employed by the department who determines that a prisoner has 12 months or less to live shall notify the chief medical officer of the prognosis. If the chief medical officer concurs with the prognosis, they shall notify the warden. Within 48 hours of receiving notification, the warden or the warden’s representative shall notify the prisoner of the recall and resentencing procedures, and shall arrange for the prisoner to designate a family member or other outside agent to be notified as to the prisoner’s medical condition and prognosis, and as to the recall and resentencing procedures. If the inmate is deemed mentally unfit, the warden or the warden’s representative shall contact the inmate’s emergency contact and provide the information described in paragraph (2).
(5) The warden or the warden’s representative shall provide the prisoner and their family member, agent, or emergency contact, as described in paragraph (4), updated information throughout the recall and resentencing process with regard to the prisoner’s medical condition and the status of the prisoner’s recall and resentencing proceedings.
(6) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the prisoner or their family member or designee may independently request consideration for recall and resentencing by contacting the chief medical officer at the prison or the secretary. Upon receipt of the request, the chief medical officer and the warden or the warden’s representative shall follow the procedures described in paragraph (4). If the secretary determines that the prisoner satisfies the criteria set forth in paragraph (2), the secretary may recommend to the court that the prisoner’s sentence be recalled. The secretary shall submit a recommendation for release within 30 days.
(7) Any recommendation for recall submitted to the court by the secretary shall include one or more medical evaluations, a postrelease plan, and findings pursuant to paragraph (2).
(8) If possible, the matter shall be heard before the same judge of the court who sentenced the prisoner.
(9) If the court grants the recall and resentencing application, the prisoner shall be released by the department within 48 hours of receipt of the court’s order, unless a longer time period is agreed to by the inmate. At the time of release, the warden or the warden’s representative shall ensure that the prisoner has each of the following in their possession: a discharge medical summary, full medical records, state identification, parole or postrelease community supervision medications, and all property belonging to the prisoner. After discharge, any additional records shall be sent to the prisoner’s forwarding address.
(10) The secretary shall issue a directive to medical and correctional staff employed by the department that details the guidelines and procedures for initiating a recall and resentencing procedure. The directive shall clearly state that any prisoner who is given a prognosis of 12 months or less to live is eligible for recall and resentencing consideration, and that recall and resentencing procedures shall be initiated upon that prognosis.
(11) The provisions of this subdivision shall be available to an inmate who is sentenced to a county jail pursuant to subdivision (h). For purposes of those inmates, “secretary” or “warden” shall mean the county correctional administrator and “chief medical officer” shall mean a physician designated by the county correctional administrator for this purpose.
(12) This subdivision does not apply to a prisoner sentenced to death or a term of life without the possibility of parole.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, for purposes of paragraph (3) of subdivision (h), any allegation that a defendant is eligible for state prison due to a prior or current conviction, sentence enhancement, or because the defendant is required to register as a sex offender shall not be subject to dismissal pursuant to Section 1385.
(g) A sentence to the state prison for a determinate term for which only one term is specified, is a sentence to state prison under this section.
(h)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision where the term is not specified in the underlying offense shall be punishable by a term of imprisonment in a county jail for 16 months, or two or three years.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (3), a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for the term described in the underlying offense.
(3) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), where the defendant (A) has a prior or current felony conviction for a serious felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 or a prior or current conviction for a violent felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5, (B) has a prior felony conviction in another jurisdiction for an offense that has all the elements of a serious felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 1192.7 or a violent felony described in subdivision (c) of Section 667.5, (C) is required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Chapter 5.5 (commencing with Section 290) of Title 9 of Part 1, or (D) is convicted of a crime and as part of the sentence an enhancement pursuant to Section 186.11 is imposed, an executed sentence for a felony punishable pursuant to this subdivision shall be served in the state prison.
(4) Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to prevent other dispositions authorized by law, including pretrial diversion, deferred entry of judgment, or an order granting probation pursuant to Section 1203.1.
(5)(A) Unless the court finds, in the interest of justice, that it is not appropriate in a particular case, the court, when imposing a sentence pursuant to paragraph (1) or (2), shall suspend execution of a concluding portion of the term for a period selected at the court’s discretion.
(B) The portion of a defendant’s sentenced term that is suspended pursuant to this paragraph shall be known as mandatory supervision, and, unless otherwise ordered by the court, shall commence upon release from physical custody or an alternative custody program, whichever is later. During the period of mandatory supervision, the defendant shall be supervised by the county probation officer in accordance with the terms, conditions, and procedures generally applicable to persons placed on probation, for the remaining unserved portion of the sentence imposed by the court. The period of supervision shall be mandatory, and may not be earlier terminated except by court order. Any proceeding to revoke or modify mandatory supervision under this subparagraph shall be conducted pursuant to either subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 1203.2 or Section 1203.3. During the period when the defendant is under that supervision, unless in actual custody related to the sentence imposed by the court, the defendant shall be entitled to only actual time credit against the term of imprisonment imposed by the court. Any time period which is suspended because a person has absconded shall not be credited toward the period of supervision.
(6) When the court is imposing a judgment pursuant to this subdivision concurrent or consecutive to a judgment or judgments previously imposed pursuant to this subdivision in another county or counties, the court rendering the second or other subsequent judgment shall determine the county or counties of incarceration and supervision of the defendant.
(7) The sentencing changes made by the act that added this subdivision shall be applied prospectively to any person sentenced on or after October 1, 2011.
(8) The sentencing changes made to paragraph (5) by the act that added this paragraph shall become effective and operative on January 1, 2015, and shall be applied prospectively to any person sentenced on or after January 1, 2015.
(9) Notwithstanding the separate punishment for any enhancement, any enhancement shall be punishable in county jail or state prison as required by the underlying offense and not as would be required by the enhancement. The intent of the Legislature in enacting this paragraph is to abrogate the holding in People v. Vega (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 1374, that if an enhancement specifies service of sentence in state prison, the entire sentence is served in state prison, even if the punishment for the underlying offense is a term of imprisonment in the county jail.
(i) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2022.
PC 1170 allows defendants to serve their felony sentence in county jail rather than California State Prison as long as they were not convicted of a serious felony, a violent felony, or a sexual crime.1 Just ten of the many felony offenses that qualify for PC 1170 sentencing include:
- Theft (PC 484(a))
- Insurance fraud (PC 550)
- Vandalism (PC 594(a))
- Embezzlement (PC 503)
- Receiving stolen property (PC 496(a))
- Animal cruelty (PC 597(a))
- Statutory rape (PC 261.5(c))
- Commercial burglary (PC 459)
- Vehicle theft (VC 10851(a))
- Identity theft (PC 530.5)
Unless the specific criminal statute says otherwise, the length of felony sentences under PC 1170 is either:
- 16 months in jail (if there are mitigating circumstances),
- 2 years in jail, or
- 3 years in jail (if there are aggravating circumstances).
PC 1170 also allows judges to grant certain felony defendants a suspended sentence or a split sentence. Suspended sentences are where defendants avoid jail as long as they complete probationary terms such as paying a fine, going to counseling, and completing community service. And split sentences are where defendants serve part of their sentence in jail and the other part on work release or home confinement.2
In addition, California felony sentencing guidelines permit courts to recall a sentence and release a prisoner if both:
- public safety would not be at risk by releasing the prisoner; and
- the prisoner is terminally ill and expected to pass away within 12 months or the prisoner is permanently medically incapacitated and needs 24-hour total care.3
- California Penal Code 1170 PC – Determinate sentencing; Sentence recall; Medical release. People v. Borynack (Cal. App. 4th Dist., 2015), 238 Cal. App. 4th 958, 190 Cal. Rptr. 3d 54.
- PC 1170. People v. West (Cal. App. 1st Dist., 1980), 107 Cal. App. 3d 987, 165 Cal. Rptr. 24.
- PC 1170. People v. Loper (Cal., 2015), 60 Cal. 4th 1155, 184 Cal. Rptr. 3d 715, 343 P.3d 895.