This article is borrowed from the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, Summer 2015 Issue of Advisory
Law enforcement in California cite the recently passed “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” as a cause of increased crime.
The California Legislature failed to pass four of the five CJLF-supported bills introduced to correct serious problems with Proposition 47—last November’s voter-adopted initiative that downgraded several crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, such as identity theft, possession of dangerous drugs, and gun theft. The initiative, which received 70% of its funding from out-of-state contributors, including the ACLU and liberal billionaire George Soros, has been cited by law enforcement officials for causing increased crime in most parts of the state.
All five of the key bills introduced by Democrats and Republicans to amend Proposition 47, or correct problems it created, passed out of their initial policy committees and three cleared their house of origin with bipartisan votes. Only one passed both houses and was signed by the Governor, but it was severely weakened with amendments.
Under Proposition 47, possessing date rape drugs was downgraded from a felony to a simple misdemeanor, punishable by no more than one year in county jail. To address this, AB 46 (Lackey) created the new felony of possession of date rape drugs with intent to commit sexual assault, punishable by a minimum of 16 months in prison. The bill passed unanimously out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, but was later killed quietly in the Appropriations Committee. The bill, by the way, did not require any appropriations. A companion bill, SB 333 (Galgiani), which also addressed possession of date rape drugs, passed out of the Senate and stalled in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, where it will officially die next year.
AB 150 (Melendez & Gray) would have restored the theft of a firearm to a felony, punishable by at least 16 months in prison. Proposition 47 downgraded the theft of a firearm valued at less than $950 from a felony to petty theft. The bill passed out of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, but died in the Appropriations Committee. Like AB 46, the bill required no appropriations.
AB 390 (Cooper) would have amended state law to address a consequence resulting from the adoption of Proposition 47. By downgrading several felony crimes to misdemeanors, the initiative spares a significant number of habitual criminals from the requirement of providing a DNA sample for the state’s database. AB 390 expanded the state’s DNA Act to require that those convicted of crimes downgraded by Proposition 47 provide a DNA sample. The bill passed out of the Assembly and has been held in the Senate Public Safety Committee where it will probably die quietly next year.
AB 1104 (Rodriguez) was introduced to address another unintended consequence of Proposition 47, which denied police the opportunity to obtain search warrants for crimes downgraded to misdemeanors by the initiative. Many serious habitual felons regularly commit the drug possession and theft-related crimes which were converted to misdemeanors. AB 1104 allowed the issuance of a search warrant for these downgraded crimes. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and was signed into law, but not before heavy amendments. In the amended bill, warrants will only be allowed for suspected drug dealers. Authorization for warrants to search gun thieves, burglars, and identity thieves was cut out of the bill before it passed.
Law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, Ventura, San Bernardino, and scores of other cities across the state are citing Proposition 47, billed as The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, for causing increased crime, but the Legislature’s leaders are clearly not listening.
CJLF will support additional legislation next year to amend this deceptive and dangerous law.