Will Politicians Reform California’s Worst Pro-Criminal, Anti-Victim Laws?

As we noted, in San Francisco last year criminals pulled off nearly 30,000 car break-ins and police made arrests in only 1.7 percent of the cases. This is the legacy of Proposition 47, the 2014 Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes initiative, which would have been better titled the Theft Empowerment Act. To charge an offender with felony burglary, the law requires prosecutors to prove that a car’s doors were locked, a requirement both perverse and impractical. As the San Francisco Chronicle notes, “getting victims to testify that they locked their doors is an often-fruitless struggle for the San Francisco district attorney’s office because many victims are tourists from out of the state or country.” Some politicians fear tourists will stay away and have attempted to reform Proposition 47.

Last year Sen. Scott Weiner introduced SB916, which dropped the locked-door requirement. The bill died in committee but Weiner plans to introduce a similar measure in early December. Weiner wants a smashed window to serve as sufficient evidence of forced entry, but even if his measure passes the break-ins are likely to continue. Under Proposition 47, criminals can steal $950 worth of property and the crime remains a misdemeanor. Though officially regarded as property crime, the vehicles all have owners, so the crime is also against people. On that front, more serious trouble lies ahead.

The 2016 Proposition 57 barred the direct filing of juvenile cases in adult court. The 2018 SB 1391 barred all prosecutions of juveniles in adult court, regardless of the gravity of the crime. Families of those victimized by juvenile murderers pleaded with governor Jerry Brown to veto the bill. He signed it anyway, one day before the start of a Proposition 57 “transfer hearing” for double murderer Daniel Marsh. SB 1391 takes effect on January 1 and as Yolo County Judge Samuel McAdam ruled: “It will soon be the law of California that even a 15-year-old who commits a brutal double murder of strangers in his neighborhood will be adjudicated in juvenile court and not adult criminal court, without any weighing of factors.” And the murderers will serve only until age 25, in comfy juvenile facilities. Crime victims might wonder how many innocents will have to die before some politician attempts to reform this measure, which would be better titled the Murder Empowerment Act.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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