The 2017 legislative session is underway and California lawmakers have introduced a flurry of proposed laws. Many of the proposed laws could have a major impact on the California criminal justice system and how certain crimes are punished. From marijuana Breathalyzers to a new crime registry, here are six recently proposed laws that could affect you.
Reclassifying “violent crimes” to get around Prop. 57
In an effort to help ease overcrowding in California jails and prisons, lawmakers proposed Proposition 57. This law, which was passed by voters in the Nov. 8 election, increased opportunities for those convicted of non-violent felonies to receive parole and “good behavior” benefits that decrease time in custody.
Opponents of Prop. 57 believed the law had a liberal definition of “non-violent” crimes. For that reason, lawmakers have introduced legislation to recategorize certain crimes as “violent” crimes. Under Assembly Bill 27, rape of a victim unable to give consent would be considered a violent felony. Additionally, AB 67 would make the crimes of human trafficking, domestic violence involving strangulation, and rape of an unconscious person violent felonies.
Are registered sex offenders banned from school campuses?
A bill that is being called the “Keep Kids Safe at School Act” is not so much a new law as much as it a change to existing law. Currently, registered sex offenders in California are barred from entering schools unless they have lawful business and written permission to be there. This proposed law would eliminate any exceptions and ban all registered sex offenders from setting foot on school campuses.
When can law enforcement collect DNA evidence from offenders?
Two bills were introduced that would bring changes to DNA collection efforts by law enforcement. Those who are convicted of felonies could have their DNA collected in order to see if it matches up to evidence found at the scene of other crimes. However, a proposed law would allow law enforcement to collect DNA from anyone convicted of certain misdemeanors, including petty theft, check fraud and drug offenses.
An additional DNA-related bill, AB 41, would require local law enforcement agencies to track all rape kits. They would have to provide numbers regarding the amount of kits that are analyzed and untested each year. There is currently a backlog of untested kits, and this proposed legislation aims to find out why that that is the case.
Should there be a hate crime registry?
The number of hate crimes committed in California has increased at “an alarming” rate recently. As a response to this, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, introduced AB 39, which would establish a “Hate Crime Registry.” This registry would list the names and crimes of those who are convicted of hate crimes in California and it would be viewable by the public. Although there are already laws that allow for additional penalties for those who commit hate crimes, this law would add an even harsher consequence.
Under California law, hate crimes are any crimes committed based on the victim’s race, religion, disability or sexual orientation. AB 2 was introduced recently to make crimes against peace officers hate crimes.
Should you have to await trial in custody if you can’t afford bail?
Two similar bills, SB 10 and AB 42, were proposed in the Senate and Assembly that would bring major changes to how bail works in California. Under the current system, you will likely be held in custody while you await trial unless you pay bail. However, many people cannot afford to pay bail, even through a bail bondsman.
These proposed laws would “ensure that people are not held in pretrial detention simply because of their inability to afford” bail. The proposed laws do not spell out specific policies that will help achieve this goal.
Breath tests for driving under the influence of marijuana
Marijuana is now legal to use in California, and California laws will have to adjust to keep up with this. One big area of law that is affected by the legalization of marijuana is DUI. How do police know if you are driving under the influence of weed?
Well, Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, introduced AB 6, which would allow law enforcement officers to administer saliva tests during DUI stops to test for drugs. However, there is no established legal limit for marijuana use as there is for alcohol (0.08% BAC), so it remains to be seen how effective this proposed law could be.