Plumas DA comments on our new laws

On Sept. 30, 2018, the last day for pending bills passed by the legislature to be signed or vetoed, outgoing Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of bills impacting the criminal justice system. The slew of legislation echoes earlier efforts to reduce prison population and minimize crimes.

As noted in a recent article by Michele Hanisee of the Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys Association “[T]he utter disdain for crime victims by Governor Brown and the State Legislature has been apparent for some time now. Two bills signed into law this past week are punctuation points on that fact.”

The bills of which Ms. Hanisee refers are Senate Bill (SB) 1391 and AB 1437.

SB 1391 prohibits 14- and 15-year-old juveniles from being tried in adult court for a crime, even if it was a vicious and calculated murder. Papers throughout the state are sharing vivid and horrifying examples of heinous crimes committed by 14- and 15-year-olds including murder, rape and a particularly chilling knife attack on an elderly woman.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1437 eviscerates much of the felony murder rule. Current law allows a murder prosecution under the felony murder rule if a murder occurs during a felony they committed even if they were not present for the actual death. Under AB 1437, a person can only be prosecuted for murder in a felony murder situation if they directly assisted with the homicide or if they were a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. It is estimated there are 400 to 800 inmates who will become eligible for release from prison due to the retroactive application of this new law.

SB 1393 changes a five year enhancement for having a prior serious felony conviction from mandatory to discretionary.

SB 439 removes anyone under age 12 from the delinquency jurisdiction of the juvenile court.

AB 1793 requires the Department of Justice to identify all prior cannabis convictions potentially eligible for resentencing under Prop 64 and notify the appropriate prosecuting agency by July 1, 2019. The prosecuting agency (i.e. local DA’s office) would then have until July 1, 2020 to decide whether or not to challenge the petition referred by the Department of Justice. Any petition not challenged will automatically be granted.

AB 1511, a bill sponsored by the California District Attorneys Association, was vetoed. AB 1511 would have reinstated an enhancement for excessive takings which increased the penalty depending on the amount of loss the victim suffered. Inexplicably and with the veto of AB 1511, a person stealing $950 faces the same punishment as a person who steals $950,000.

Within the public safety arena, we continue to navigate drastic changes in our criminal justice system over the past decade. During this time we have seen AB109 shift state responsibilities to our local jails, Proposition 47 reduce most drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors and Proposition 57 allow for the early release from prison of felons convicted of violent crimes. We are also grappling with legislative changes such as those listed above as well as SB10 which seeks to eliminate the cash bail system. As we look up and down our state it is clear these changes have not benefited the public’s safety.

Property and drug crimes continue to climb — urban areas battle unrelenting car burglaries and needles on their streets while our whole state faces the challenges of an opioid crisis.

Though not immune from these challenges, Plumas County remains a safe and just place to live, work and play. While our state legislature may not seem to care about the rule of law or the real, innocent victims of crime, such is not the case in Plumas County — we do care. This achievement is not by accident.

I am exceptionally grateful for the tireless and dedicated work of our law enforcement and criminal justice partners and the strong and consistent support of our citizens who value public safety as local government’s number one priority.