Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) Practice

The Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), enacted in May 2019, reflects the Legislature’s commitment to shortening the prison sentences of domestic violence victims. It has two components. First, for individuals not yet sentenced, the DVSJA permits far more compassionate sentencing than its predecessor statute.

Second, the DVSJA created a “look back” provision, to allow for resentencings for those already incarcerated. Individuals who can show that they are serving at least an 8-year prison sentence, are not a predicate violent felon, were not convicted of certain exclusionary offenses, and, with corroborating evidence, that at the time of the underlying crime they were a victim of abuse that was a significant contributing factor to their criminal behavior, are eligible to be resentenced.

Appellate Advocates has been integral to the movement by public defender organizations to proactively apply for resentencings of domestic violence victims. We identify eligible clients and seek assignment to their resentencings, and are also assigned by the court to new DVSJA applications. A group of specialized attorneys working with our social work and re-entry teams provide comprehensive, sensitive representation to present the court and the district attorney’s offices with a complete picture of our client’s trauma, its effects on the offense(s) leading to their incarceration, and their accomplishments and re-entry goals today.

Successful applicants have had prison sentences reduced as well as lifetime parole and post-release supervision eliminated. Appellate Advocates also belongs to a statewide task force that meets monthly to discuss implementation of the new law and potential improvements.