Bill Watch

Two Criminal Justice Bills Become Laws on Governor Brown’s Desk…Plus Several More Await Key Decisions, Including a Bill to End the Felony Murder Rule, and One to Shine Light on Police Misconduct Files

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On Monday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two noteworthy criminal justice bills–one to expand access to victim compensation, and the other to improve privacy protections for incarcerated women by banning male guards from patting them down or seeing them in a state of undress. Many more bills must still make it through the end-of-legislative-session gauntlet by August 31, to land on Gov. Brown’s desk.

Making More Victims Eligible for Compensation

The first bill, AB 1639, will block California’s Victim Compensation Board from denying a compensation claim “solely because the victim or derivative victim is a person who is listed in the CalGang system or alleged by local law enforcement to be gang involved.”

The state Victim Compensation Fund provides assistance to victims and family members of victims of violent crimes, sex crimes, elder abuse, drunk driving, human trafficking, stalking, and more. The Victim Compensation Board gives much-needed money to victims and their families to pay for medical treatment, mental health counseling, burial expenses, income loss, and other expenses that arise in the aftermath of a victimization.

But some crime victims are blocked from accessing the supports and services because they are listed in California’s controversial gang database, CalGang, a system that has been criticized for being inaccurate. AB 1639 will ensure that people are not precluded from compensation solely because they are listed in CalGang.

The bill would also explicitly ban the board from denying compensation claims based on a victim’s immigration status.

Furthermore, the bill would direct the Victims Compensation Board to inform and train local distributors of victim compensation funds and services “that they cannot exclude people based on gang allegations or their immigration or documentation status.”

“AB 1639 breaks down systemic barriers and enhances the California Victim Compensation Board’s ability to assist survivors of crime to rebuild their lives with comprehensive and holistic, trauma-informed services,” said bill author Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella). “Public safety agencies across our state will now be equipped with the means to provide victims and their families with information on the healing resources available to them. These restorative practices offer critical reinvestments in high crime rate areas, consequently burdened by poor socio-economics and paves a sustainable road for safer, empowered communities.”

(For more information on AB 1639 and the CalGang problem, read our earlier reporting: here.)


Protecting Women From Further Traumatization

The second newly approved bill, AB 2550, will prohibit male prison guards from patting down female inmates in nearly all circumstances.

Senator Shirley Weber’s “Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act” will also ban male guards from entering areas like bathrooms where locked up women are not fully dressed.

The bill was amended, however, to allow male officers to search women in prison and to see them in a state of undress if a “prisoner presents a risk of immediate harm to herself or others or risk of escape and there is not a female correctional officer available to conduct the search.”

The bill is a product of #cut50‘s Dignity Campaign, an initiative led by formerly incarcerated women that seeks to improve conditions for the nation’s locked up women, including those forced to give birth while shackled, the mothers incarcerated hundreds of miles away from their children, women denied adequate access to feminine hygiene supplies, and the women who are sexual assault victims, but who must undergo strip searches and pat downs by male guards.

“This is a population that has been largely exploited and abused,” Weber said. ”More than 86 percent of women locked up are survivors of past sexual violence and 77 percent are survivors of partner violence. This bill seeks to reduce the potential that staff actions will traumatize or re-traumatize women in prison.”


But Wait, There’s More

A pile of criminal justice bills faces last-minute key votes before the state legislature adjourns on August 31, including:

A Bill to End the Felony Murder Rule

SB 1437 – Under California’s felony murder rule, individuals involved in serious crimes that result in someone’s death face murder charges as if they were the killer, even if they had no intent or knowledge that a person would be injured or killed. SB 1437 seeks to end this rule. Instead, only individuals who actually kill, who intend to kill, or who show “reckless indifference to human life” during the course of committing a serious felony that results in murder will face murder charges.

One man, Shawn Khalifa, is serving a 25-to-life sentence for murdering an elderly man named Hubert Love when Khalifa was 15. But Khalifa didn’t kill Love. Khalifa didn’t even get near the man. Instead, the teen stole chocolates and ran out of Love’s house when he saw that the older man had been hurt by his friends. Because Khalifa was among a group of teenagers who broke into Love’s house looking for cash, and because one of those teens killed Love, Khalifa was convicted of first-degree murder under the state’s felony murder rule. (The Marshall Project, in collaboration with the New York Times, tells Khalifa’s story, as well as the stories of other youths ensnared by the felony murder law.)

SB 1437 is headed for a vote on the Assembly Floor on August 31.

The “Police Accountability and Community Protection Act”

•  AB 931 – The controversial “Police Accountability and Community Protection Act” would change the circumstances under which officers can use deadly force. Current law says that officers can use deadly force when “objectively reasonable”—when another officer with similar training and experience would have behaved similarly under the same circumstances. AB 931 would permit officers to use deadly force only to prevent imminent bodily harm or death, and when there are no reasonable alternatives to de-escalate the situation through verbal warnings, persuasion, or other non-lethal efforts. Under the bill, prosecutors would also be able to look at an officer’s actions leading up to a deadly use of force, and whether those actions were “grossly negligent” and put the officer unnecessarily in danger. The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, and has until the end of August 31 to slide onto on Gov. Brown’s desk.

A Bill to Bring Sunshine to Police Misconduct Files

•  SB 1421 – A pro-transparency bill, SB 1421, aims to open up law enforcement personnel records to the public when officers use force or are found by their departments to have committed misconduct. Most states have far more public access to peace officer records, including misconduct allegations, than California does. SB 1421 would force police agencies in California to publicly release records related to incidents in which officers use force—specifically, when they discharge their firearms or Tasers, use a weapon to strike a person’s head or neck, or use force that results in serious bodily harm or death. The bill would also make public records of on-duty sexual assault, including when cops exchange sex for leniency. Finally, SB 1421 would give the public access to records when officers are found to have been dishonest in the “reporting, investigation, or prosecution of a crime.” SB 1421 is awaiting a final vote from the Assembly.

Two “Raise the Age” Bills

•  SB 1391 – In California 14 and 15-year-olds can be tried in the adult criminal justice system. SB 1391 would raise the age for adult court, keeping kids under 16 out of adult court. The bill passed through the Senate and is currently on the Assembly Floor.

•  SB 439 – A related bill, SB 439 would ensure that children under the age of 12 are excluded from prosecution in juvenile court, unless they have committed murder or rape. Many states have minimum ages for juvenile court prosecution. Not California. Nearly 1,000 pre-teens were referred to juvenile court in 2015. Around 250 of those kids were actually prosecuted.

A Bill to Streamline Post-Prop. 64 Marijuana Conviction Reclassification

•  AB 1793 – The state would automatically reclassify or expunge marijuana-related convictions from eligible Californians’ records under AB 1793, rather than require them to submit petitions for the changes to occur. The bill passed through the Assembly, and the Senate committees, and now heads for a full vote on the Senate Floor.

Two Bills to Improve Outcomes for Exonerees

•  SB 1094 – Senate Bill 1094 would expand eligibility for people wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for crimes they did not commit to receive compensation. In California, those wrongfully imprisoned are entitled to $140 per day for the time they were incarcerated, but California’s Victim Compensation Board finds very few wrongfully convicted people to be eligible for compensation. The bill would extend eligibility to people whose convictions are vacated after new evidence emerges because either the prosecutors have dropped the charges, or because they have been acquitted after a second trial, both categories that were excluded before. SB 1094 is currently held in committee and under submission, but still has time to snag the final necessary votes to proceed to Brown for signature.

•  SB 1050 – Another bill to benefit exonerees, SB 1050, would update their criminal records to show that they had been wrongfully convicted. The bill would also ensure that newly released exonerees receive support and services like healthcare and job training to ease their transition back into their communities. This bill is nearing an Assembly Floor vote, after unanimously passing out of the Senate.

Two Sentencing Reform Bills

•  SB 1279 – This bill would limit a person’s sentence for two or more felony convictions and sentencing enhancements to twice as long as the individual’s base term. The bill passed through the Senate and will soon land on the Assembly Floor.

•  SB 1393 – Another sentencing reform bill, SB 1393, would give courts discretion to strike 5-year enhancements for prior, serious felony convictions when a person is being charged with a new, serious felony. The bill slipped through the Senate on a 23-14 vote, and is in line for a third reading in the Assembly.

16 Comments

  • 931 and 1421 are illegal. Plain and simple. But, if anyone thinks these new laws are good they are only good for CRIMINALS! Now watch what will happen. Once enacted it will falsely appear that crime will go down when exactly the opposite is happening. How about a law making men responsible for getting women pregnant and abandoning their responsibilities? I predict that soon Californian voters will revolt and reject socialism. There will be a major correction or Calif will die!

    • Ummm, did you mean to say that these two bills would be bad for CRIMINALS WITH A BADGE?

      Oh, wait, are you a LEO? Or a representative from one of those Police Officer’s Unions? Or are you simply a Russian troll?

      Regardless, sounds like you might be jumping the gun on this one. Especially about your horrible and deadly predictions of revolts and death to our state.

      And for your information, the word “socialism” is only a bad thing when it benefits the masses. Socialism that benefits a select few, like the wealthy elite and mega corporations are called; bail outs, tax cuts and subsidies.

      • Sadly, a lack of education, most likely from a poor effort on your part, caused you to miss the point of socialism. May I quote you “Socialism is only bad thing when it benefits the masses.” I should call my prof and tell him that Marx, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao (communist/socialist) was wrong that socialism would benefit all and that you are right? The attempt to make an argument by misleading into another is called the straw man argument. The revolt ( I wrote about) will not be violent like BLM or Antifa but eventually as PM Thatcher eloquently stated re socialism “one eventually runs out of other people’s money.” But, I’m sure somewhere in that vast emptiness of hate lies some coherence of practical thought? Just try harder!

        • Yes, a lack of education in deed. Especially when giving us your narrow view point and parroted half quotes that enforce that same narrow view point. Wow, I did not know that BLM and Antifa have been violent revolts.

          Which of the following groups has been more violent? A) BLM B) kkk C) Antifa

          Please enlighten those of us who apparently suffer from a lack of education.

          Gracias.

      • You do realize that K. Marx envisioned Socialism as just a transitional phase to the ultimate form of government…..Communism.

        Just look and Hugo Chavez’s attempt at a Socialist government in Venezuela and ask the people how that’s working out for them. An oppressive government, high unemployment, people fleeing, and uncontrolled inflation. That sounds ideal to me.

        Look at the former USSR which was not sustainable and Russia and China which have a hybrid form of Capitalism/Communism versus Cuba (which is changing) and the true last Communist hold out, North Korea. I don’t think the people of Cuba and North Korea are exactly living the Communist dream.

        Socialism is a lofty ideal but has been tried and proven not practical. Capitalism with all its woes is still the best workable solution.

  • The idiot socialist supposedly in cop work who continually slams cops suddenly returns slamming cops. Same dopey song, same dopey dance. Move on folks, nothing to see here.

    • Ouch, sounds like you’ve been hurt in the past Miss Fire! It’s ok, relax, things will work out. But in the mean time go ahead and relase some of that venom and ignorant rants on others on line. That’s so brave of you!

        • Sure thing Miss Fire. Keep on going since apparently you still have lots and lots of venom and ignorant rants against others.

          Pesky on line posters who somehow are able to get you all worked up over nothing really!

          And don’t worry, it’s not your fault for being so reactionary, negative and a big bully. It’s always someone else’s fault, but your own. Got that Missy Fire?

  • There you go folks, Um resolved the issue – these laws are illegal. And, they are good for criminals. I can’t wait for 931 and 1421 to become law, although I know the unions, of which Maj. Kong and his ilk whine about, are working hard not to let them come to fruition. Maybe then we’ll see how many black kids Maj. Kong, Sure Fire and the rest of gang, smacked around. The good officers on this site hate criminals so much and issue verdicts before the judges that I am surprised they are not screaming about how we should through the book at the two latest felons – Manafort and Cohen. Had they worked for Obama, the good officers would be screaming bloody murder and wanting to throw the Kenyan in prison. Alas, the law and order folk are silent.

    • CF I’m an equal opportunity smacker guy, you’re the racist proved with every post you put up. I love the battle, of wits as well. You’ve never been up to it, just a sad old hater.

  • Must be tough being a cop hater. No matter how much you howl, no matter how often you’re absolutely certain the cops have been caught dirty this time, all every city, state, and federal government wants to do is hire more cops. People love to virtue signal, publicly railing against the cops they hire, but don’t you ever even think about removing that safety blanket. If being a virtual punching bag for the public is now an official part of policing, I think it’s only fair cops get paid more for it.

  • Let’s just follow the San Francisco model. Astronomical home prices that only the well heeled progressive/ultra liberals can afford. While these liberal social “do gooders” go to their clean, safe enclaves they allow the homeless and less fortunate to live on the streets of the city like animals. Needles, feces, urine, tents and trash line the streets of the city and no one does a thing about.

    Is is this really an example to hold up and the model for the country to emulate? Is this really an example of effective left wing politics and government at its best? It’s ironic that the California Democratic part has leaned so far over it’s ignored common sense and allowed fringe issues to dominate it’s platform. The party has snubbed the middle class and now panders to criminals, illegal aliens, the Hollywood elite and the Silicone Valley tech elite. Look deeper and you realize the party is no better than ultra-right wing Republicans, as it only caters to those with money and their special interests.

    California will suffer if it continues down this path. The state is only a natural disaster away from a major economic collapse. Who will the leaders look to then? The federal government they despise, other states whom they look down upon or just tough it out by themselves since the states leaders thinks its all that.

    Time will tell. You an only tax the middle class and spend others money for so long before they revolt.

  • Lets Hear More: Well said

    Forbes Magazine just released the 10 most liberal cities. San Francisco was #1 and Oakland I think was #5. Both complete train wrecks and are the epitome of income/class disparity that the Left screams about.

    The hypocrisy is mind bending.

  • Maj Kong, I have no problem with paying more for them to be virtual punching bags. But, do they actually have be shaped like punching bag. It seems that every other LEO over 40 I come across is overweight and some are down right obese. Are there no requirements once you get out the academy that an officer stay in shape. For god’s sake, it seems we pay by the pound. You should at least be able to run more than half a block without being out of breath. Put the donuts and pick up some weights.

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