What Is the Racial Justice for All Act?

The Supreme Court in 1987 said that Black people are more likely than white people to get a death sentence for comparable crimes. It noted that this was an inevitable part of the criminal justice system and not grounds for overturning anyone’s death sentence or murder conviction unless there was evidence of intentional discrimination.

The Racial Justice Act, also known as AB 256, came about to challenge a new conviction or sentence that may have been affected by their race. The newly signed law will result in dramatic verdict changes, some of which would lead to deportation. A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney takes you through what the Act means and how it may affect your case.

What Changes Does AB256 Bring to the Justice System?

The California Racial Justice Act prohibits the state from seeking or obtaining a criminal conviction on a defendant based on race, national origin, or ethnicity. The landmark Act allows a defendant or convict to challenge racial bias in their case. However, the Act was prospective, excluding judgments delivered before January 1, 2021.


The Act only applies to these overdue protections to people already impacted by unfair convictions and sentences. Through it, you have an equal opportunity to pursue justice if you’ve already been harmed by racial discrimination and bias that often permeates the criminal legal system.

Consult a Los Angeles wrongful convictions attorney if your rights were violated based on your ethnicity or race during your sentencing. They can review your case based on the AB 256 Act and help you fight for your rights.

When Does AB256 Go into Effect?

The law took effect on January 1, 2023, and will continue on a phase-in process. Prisoners will have a higher priority than convicts not already in prison or defendants for misdemeanor cases.

Can I Petition the Court for Retroactive Relief?

Before the Racial Justice Act, proving racial bias in court verdicts was nearly impossible. That was because of the 30-year legal precedent by McCleskey v Kemp that saw the Supreme Court rule that defendants in criminal cases must prove intentional discrimination in challenging bias in their cases.

The original Racial Justice Act attempted to address this issue but was narrowed down to prospective cases only. Those cases already harmed by discrimination and racial bias were excluded. With the passing of AB 256, past judgments, sentences, and convictions before January 1, 2021, can be challenged by filing a petition for retroactive relief as follows:

  • January 1, 2023: Defendants facing deportation or sentenced to death
  • January 1, 2024: People incarcerated for felonies
  • January 1, 2025: Felony convictions entered after 2015
  • January 1, 2026: All other individuals with a felony conviction

The law stipulated that a person convicted or sentenced in violation of the Act shall not be subjected to the death penalty.

Besides, a prisoner sentenced to death can be removed from death row if they can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the following exhibited animus or bias against them based on their ethnicity, race, or national origin:

  • A low enforcement officer involved in the case
  • An attorney in the case
  • The judge
  • An expert witness
  • A juror

If you believe you’re a victim of racial bias, contact a skilled civil rights violation lawyer in Los Angeles. They can investigate the case and guide you on the steps to take following the AB 256 Act.

How Can I Get My Conviction Vacated Under AB 256?

If you wish to file a petition to have your conviction reviewed, it’s important that you first consult a skilled criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. They can take the following steps to get your conviction vacated:

Review Your Record

If your sentencing or conviction was influenced by your race, ethnicity, or national origin, the sentence was unfair, and your rights were violated. Your Los Angeles wrongful convictions attorney will evaluate the trial transcripts and other documents related to the case and show how your conviction was a product of discrimination by pointing out the following:

  • Blatant racist statements by judges, attorneys, expert witnesses, or law enforcers
  • The exclusion of all or nearly all Latin or Black people from serving on the jury
  • Statistical evidence showing systemic bias in the charges or sentence.

File a Petition

Your lawyer will develop solid arguments to support your case and help you file a petition to vacate your conviction.

When choosing a civil rights violation lawyer in Los Angeles, go for one with experience in historical cases and recent laws about AB 256 rationale.

Fight to Get You Released from Prison

The state will likely fight back against releasing many inmates despite the method provided in AB 256 for obtaining relief. That’s why you need an experienced and aggressive lawyer to fight on your behalf. They can navigate the complex justice system to get your conviction vacated to enable you to return home.

A Legal Professional Fighting for Your Rights in Los Angeles

Filing a petition to have your conviction vacated that wasn’t very objective due to your ethnicity, race, or nationality can be complex. You must prove that your case was marred with racial bias and that your conviction was the product of that bias. The law is still in its early stages and evolving, so working with a skilled Los Angeles racial justice attorney is in your best interests.

Our law firm has provided legal representation for people facing criminal charges in Southern Carolina. If you believe your conviction was based on racial, ethnic, or national bias, you can petition the court to vacate the sentence under the Racial Justice for All Act. Contact the Miranda Rights Law Firm at 213-293-1207 to schedule a FREE case assessment.