Proposed Ballot Initiative Would Rollback Reform of the Criminal Justice System
In recent years, State lawmakers and California voters have taken steps to reform the criminal justice system that many view as unfairly harsh and biased against those accused and convicted of crimes. Any time criminal charges are a possibility, an experienced criminal defense attorney is needed to properly contest claims by the State, and protect one’s rights throughout the criminal process. Victims’ advocates and law enforcement have often been in strong opposition to the reforms of the criminal justice system, which they see as making it easier for criminals to escape rightful punishment and reoffend at the first opportunity. Growing out of this discomfort with recent changes to the law, a new ballot initiative was introduced this week that would modify certain aspects of the recent reforms to address concerns about repeat offenders not being adequately restrained, and a reduction in DNA collection that law enforcement claim is hampering their ability to investigate crimes. While this measure will need public support before becoming law, it is still important to know about serious efforts to encroach on the rights of criminal defendants. A discussion of the provisions of the new ballot initiative, and the current law on the collection of DNA samples from accused and convicted defendants, will follow below.
Proposed Ballot Measure
One of the more contested features of the reform legislation are changes to the parole system that allow offenders not considered to pose a safety risk to the public to be potentially eligible for early release. The proposed measure would classify 15 new offenses as violent, which removes them from possibility of early parole, including:
- felony domestic violence;
- rape of an unconscious individual;
- felony assault with a deadly weapon;
- sex trafficking of children; and
- battery on a police officer or firefighter.
In addition, the State parole board would be required to consider an offender’s entire criminal history, not just the most recent offense, and to hold a hearing on the revocation of a person’s parole for a third violation of his/her release. The measure would also make serial theft a felony, which is defined as three or more separate convictions for the theft of goods worth $250 or more. Finally, the ballot initiative would reinstate DNA collection for those convicted of certain drug and petty theft charges that were reduced to misdemeanors in earlier criminal justice reform measures.
Current DNA Collection Laws
California law currently authorizes police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, but not misdemeanors, which is why a specific exception had to be made in the proposed measure for drug and theft offenses now listed as misdemeanors. All States permit DNA collection for felony convictions, but California is one of 28 that permit the taking of DNA samples for a felony arrest, even if the person is never convicted. The purported reason for this law is to aid law enforcement with the investigation of cold cases, and unfortunately, challenges to this lawful practice have been rejected by the courts. However, while DNA is powerful evidence against a criminal defendant, it is still possible to present strong arguments to suppress its introduction at trial, usually due to an illegal act by the police during arrest, or to offer a reasonable explanation of the presence of DNA at a crime scene that does not indicate criminal activity, i.e., the sexual encounter was consensual.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
The criminal justice system is an intimidating and complicated process that a person accused of a crime should never face alone. Work with an experienced criminal defense attorney, like those at Manshoory Law Group, APC, who know how to fight for your rights and provide dedicated representation. This Los Angeles law firm has attorneys available 24/7 to take your call, and strives to get each client the best possible result. Contact us today for a consultation.