Community Legal Information Clinic

Penal Law Project

The Penal Law Project operates under the Community Legal Information Clinic in assisting incarcerated individuals in state and federal prison facilities located throughout the United States by providing legal information upon request. Clients generally seek basic legal information and research materials regarding penal statutes as well as copies of relevant case law. Topics that are often addressed include, but are not limited to, issues of trial error, sentencing, parole, pardons, habeas corpus, and expungement of criminal records.

Disclaimer

The project does not provide advice or representation for inmates. We operate solely as paralegal interns, locating and accessing requested forms or legal information. We do not offer any form of legal advice, nor can we represent you.

The Community Legal Information Clinic (CLIC) is an undergraduate law clinic comprised of paralegal interns only.  WE ARE NOT ATTTORNEYS AND CANNOT PROVIDE YOU LEGAL ADVICE NOR LEGAL REPRESENTATION.  We are paralegal interns and provide legal information only. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What services are offered by the Penal Law Project?
    The Penal Law Project is a program of the Community Legal Information Clinic, which is a non-profit organization composed of paralegal interns who locate and provide legal information to the community. Specifically, the Penal Law Project serves any prisoner located in a correctional facility who is seeking legal information.

    We are not lawyers and we cannot represent you.

    The Penal Law Project’s primary goals are to provide persons incarcerated in correctional facilities with legal information pertaining to correctional injustices, sentencing, probation, parole, pardons, certificates of rehabilitation, expungement, medical records and appeals. Our goal is to provide the information you have requested to aid you in your representation of yourself. We provide two types of information:
    • When provided with a citation, we can send you the text of case law, a statute, or a regulation
    • When provided with a general question, we can only provide a general summary of law pertaining to your legal issue or suggest where you might access more assistance.
  1. Pertaining to the issues created by the Corona Virus, how is the Penal Law Project operating? Are requests for legal information still made through the mail or online? Currently, the Penal Law project will be operating online due to the Corona Virus pandemic. Majority of intakes or requests for legal information will be accepted through email or phone number, which is listed above on the website.
  1. I am currently incarcerated in a federal prison in California and cannot locate legal representation. Can you provide me the contact information of attorneys who could represent me?
    In the state of California, there are a large number of legal aid organizations as well as attorneys who work pro-bono. Although we cannot explicitly recommend a lawyer, we have attached a link to the California State Bar List of possible pro-bono organizations that may apply.
    • If you would like more groups of pro-bono organizations in California, please email CLIC Penal Law Project at clicpenal@csuchico.edu.
  1. I am incarcerated for a crime I did not commit. I have a factual claim of innocence but am not sure who can help me. What resources could I contact?
    In order to receive assistance from the Innocence Project, an individual must have a “factual claim of innocence” that can be further investigated. We have listed links to Innocence Projects located in the states that compose the majority of Penal Law Project’s clientele.
    • California Innocence Project-CIP(opens in new window)
      • Contact Information
        • CIP is contacted through submitted emails from the CIP website which is linked above.
        • 225 Cedar St., San Diego, CA 95201
      • Loyola Project for the Innocent-LPI(opens in new window)
        • The LPI prefers to communicate with clients directly via mail. The project assists those who are currently incarcerated in a California State prison, had convictions in Central and Southern California, have exhausted all appeals, are indigent, and are not currently represented by counsel. Information pertaining to items the letters must include about a potential clients’ case is located on the website linked above.
        • Contact Information
          • Loyola Law School
            • 919 Albany St., Los Angeles, CA 91101
          • Phone: 213-736-8141
        • Northern California Innocence Project-NCIP(opens in new window)
          • The NCIP require clients to submit a completed questionnaire, accessed through the link above, in order for the case to be properly reviewed and evaluated. The preferred method of contact is through the questionnaire, as cases submitted via phone, social media or email are not examined. The completed questionnaire and consent forms must be submitted through mail, sent to the Santa Clara address. Further correspondence after submissions will be handled by mail.
          • Additionally, the NCIP require that clients must meet all conditions for case to be reviewed. The conditions are as follows:
            • “The person must actually be innocent of the crimes for which he or she is convicted.”
            • “There must be a significant chance that substantial new evidence may be found to support a claim of innocence.”
            • “The person must have been convicted of a serious felony in one of the 48 Northern and Central California counties from Monterey, Kings, Tulare, and Inyo County up to the Oregon Border.”
          • Contact Information
            • 500 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95063
            • Email: ncip@scu.edu
            • Phone: 408-554-4790
          • North Carolina Center of Actual Innocence-NCCAI(opens in new window)
            • The NCCAI prefers to be contacted through the website linked above to which case submissions would be done through the website.
            • Contact Information
            • The Innocence Project of Texas-IPT(opens in new window)
              • The project prefers to be contacted through submissions via the website linked above and “does not accept requests for assistance via email, phone or fax”
              • Contact Information
              • Address
                • Innocence Texas
                  300 Burnett Street, Suite 160
                  Fort Worth, Texas 76102
  1. My loved one is incarcerated in federal prison but is being released soon. What reentry services are offered to inmates upon release? The Federal Bureau of Prisons offers reentry services through branch centers located throughout the nation. The BOP coordinates with residential reentry centers to provide assistance to released inmates as they transition back into the community. The reentry centers operate in similar manner as halfway houses, providing structure, safety, supervision, counseling. For more information on reentry centers, visit the Federal Bureau of Prisons(opens in new window) at the link provided.

    The Volunteers of America offers vast resources surrounding inmate reentry into the community. Specifically, the VOA rehabilitates adult offenders upon release as well as provides work release programs, residential treatment, dispute resolution and mediation services. For more information on reentry services offered by the VOA, visit the Volunteers of America(opens in new window) at the link provided.

    Specifically, in the Chico, California area, Butte County offers services for inmate's post-release as well. Attached are links to both low cost services available with contact information listed as well as links to housing and employment services available.
  1. I am seeking to remove an old conviction off my record. What is the process for doing such?
    • Below is the statue that governs “expungement” in California. We cannot advise you regarding whether this statute applies to your specific situation. This may or may not apply depending on your individual circumstances. Please consult with an attorney to determine whether such relief is available in your specific case.

                         

PENAL CODE - PEN

PART 2. OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE [681 - 1620]

  ITLE 8. OF JUDGMENT AND EXECUTION [1191 - 1233.11]

CHAPTER 1. The Judgment [1191 - 1210.5]
1203.4a.  (a) Every defendant convicted of a misdemeanor and not granted probation, and every defendant convicted of an infraction shall, at any time after the lapse of one year from the date of pronouncement of judgment, if they have fully complied with and performed the sentence of the court, is not then serving a sentence for any offense and is not under charge of commission of any crime, and has, since the pronouncement of judgment, lived an honest and upright life and has conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land, be permitted by the court to withdraw their plea of guilty or nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or if they have been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and in either case the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusatory pleading against the defendant, who shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which they have been convicted, except as provided in Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of Title 4 of Part 6 of this code or Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code.

(b) If a defendant does not satisfy all the requirements of subdivision (a), after a lapse of one year from the date of pronouncement of judgment, a court, in its discretion and in the interests of justice, may grant the relief available pursuant to subdivision (a) to a defendant convicted of an infraction, or of a misdemeanor and not granted probation, or both, if they have fully complied with and performed the sentence of the court, is not then serving a sentence for any offense, and is not under charge of commission of any crime.

(c) (1) The defendant shall be informed of the provisions of this section, either orally or in writing, at the time they are sentenced. The defendant may make an application and change of plea in person or by attorney, or by the probation officer authorized in writing, provided that, in any subsequent prosecution of the defendant for any other offense, the prior conviction may be pleaded and proved and shall have the same effect as if relief had not been granted pursuant to this section.

(2) Dismissal of an accusatory pleading pursuant to this section does not permit a person to own, possess, or have in their custody or control any firearm or prevent their conviction under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) of Division 9 of Title 4 of Part 6.

(3) Dismissal of an accusatory pleading underlying a conviction pursuant to this section does not permit a person prohibited from holding public office as a result of that conviction to hold public office.

(4) Dismissal of an accusation or information pursuant to this section does not release the defendant from the terms and conditions of any unexpired criminal protective order that has been issued by the court pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (i) of Section 136.2, subdivision (j) of Section 273.5, subdivision (l) of Section 368, or subdivision (k) of Section 646.9. These protective orders shall remain in full effect until expiration or until any further order by the court modifying or terminating the order, despite the dismissal of the underlying accusation or information.

(d)  This section applies to any conviction specified in subdivision (a) or (b) that occurred before, as well as those occurring after, the effective date of this section, except that this section does not apply to the following:

(1) A misdemeanor violation of subdivision (c) of Section 288.

(2) Any misdemeanor falling within the provisions of Section 42002.1 of the Vehicle Code.

(3) Any infraction falling within the provisions of Section 42001 of the Vehicle Code.

(e) A petition for dismissal of an infraction pursuant to this section shall be by written declaration, except upon a showing of compelling need. Dismissal of an infraction shall not be granted under this section unless the prosecuting attorney has been given at least 15 days’ notice of the petition for dismissal. It shall be presumed that the prosecuting attorney has received notice if proof of service is filed with the court.

(f) Any determination of amount made by a court under this section shall be valid only if either (1) made under procedures adopted by the Judicial Council or (2) approved by the Judicial Council.

(g) This section shall become operative on January 1, 2022.

                                   

 7. I am an inmate in a California federal prison and feel as though my civil rights have been violated. Who can I contact to assist me in making a claim?
As CLIC’s Penal Law Project operates solely as paralegal interns, we cannot offer legal advice nor can we refer you to any specific attorney. However, we have composed a list of civil rights attorneys who may be of help. Attached below is the contact information for potential representation.

                                

PENAL CODE - PEN

PART 2. OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE [681 - 1620]  

TITLE 8. OF JUDGMENT AND EXECUTION [1191 - 1233.11]

CHAPTER 1. The Judgment [1191 - 1210.5]
1203.4a.  
(a) Every defendant convicted of a misdemeanor and not granted probation, and every defendant convicted of an infraction shall, at any time after the lapse of one year from the date of pronouncement of judgment, if they have fully complied with and performed the sentence of the court, is not then serving a sentence for any offense and is not under charge of commission of any crime, and has, since the pronouncement of judgment, lived an honest and upright life and has conformed to and obeyed the laws of the land, be permitted by the court to withdraw their plea of guilty or nolo contendere and enter a plea of not guilty; or if they have been convicted after a plea of not guilty, the court shall set aside the verdict of guilty; and in either case the court shall thereupon dismiss the accusatory pleading against the defendant, who shall thereafter be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense of which they have been convicted, except as provided in Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 29900) of Division 9 of Title 4 of Part 6 of this code or Section 13555 of the Vehicle Code.

(b) If a defendant does not satisfy all the requirements of subdivision (a), after a lapse of one year from the date of pronouncement of judgment, a court, in its discretion and in the interests of justice, may grant the relief available pursuant to subdivision (a) to a defendant convicted of an infraction, or of a misdemeanor and not granted probation, or both, if they have fully complied with and performed the sentence of the court, is not then serving a sentence for any offense, and is not under charge of commission of any crime.

(c) (1) The defendant shall be informed of the provisions of this section, either orally or in writing, at the time they are sentenced. The defendant may make an application and change of plea in person or by attorney, or by the probation officer authorized in writing, provided that, in any subsequent prosecution of the defendant for any other offense, the prior conviction may be pleaded and proved and shall have the same effect as if relief had not been granted pursuant to this section.

(2) Dismissal of an accusatory pleading pursuant to this section does not permit a person to own, possess, or have in their custody or control any firearm or prevent their conviction under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 29800) of Division 9 of Title 4 of Part 6.

(3) Dismissal of an accusatory pleading underlying a conviction pursuant to this section does not permit a person prohibited from holding public office as a result of that conviction to hold public office.

(4) Dismissal of an accusation or information pursuant to this section does not release the defendant from the terms and conditions of any unexpired criminal protective order that has been issued by the court pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (i) of Section 136.2, subdivision (j) of Section 273.5, subdivision (l) of Section 368, or subdivision (k) of Section 646.9. These protective orders shall remain in full effect until expiration or until any further order by the court modifying or terminating the order, despite the dismissal of the underlying accusation or information.

  1. I would like to request specific legal information, whether that be case law or statutes. Are you able to provide such information? Are you able to provide other information upon request?
    The majority of the information that we provide are court opinions, penal codes, statutes, and other legal information that is specifically requested by our clients or we can provide a variety of legal information that falls under the requested information. If a specific citation or statute is not requested, we can provide possible cases or statutes that may apply to the request with a brief summary about the information, but we cannot provide the full case law or statute without it being specifically requested. When given the list of possible legal information that could apply, write back requesting the case law or statute specifically in order to receive the full copy of the legal information.
  1. Does the Penal Law Project serve only clients from California?
    The Penal Law Project has served clients from all over the United States. Our clients come from variety of places and are not limited to California. Although majority of our clients are from California, we also receive requests for legal information from the east coast as well, primarily from North Carolina, Texas, and Florida.
  1. Is there a limit on how many pages of information I can request?
    Due to our budget limit, clients that request information through mail get a limit of 12 letters with a page limit of 36 pages front and back per year. (Note: this only applies to information requested by mail).

The Education & Career Guide for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals(opens in new window) offers in-depth information regarding reentry services in several areas, including:

  • Information on different re-entry assistance programs
  • Getting your GED after incarceration
  • Financial aid & scholarships for previously incarcerated individuals
  • Finding employment after incarceration