SACRAMENTO – Nine days after introducing a comprehensive bill package to reform California’s criminal justice system for juveniles and young adults, five of the measures have passed their initial policy tests.
The latest action came today as the Senate Public Safety Committee approved bills to eliminate court fees on those found innocent and to keep records sealed on those not convicted of a crime.
The two measures, Senate Bills 355 and 393, are part of the #EquityAndJustice package of reforms introduced jointly March 20 by Los Angeles-area Sens. Ricardo Lara and Holly Mitchell. The bills seek major justice reforms and put greater emphasis on prevention, rehabilitation and maintaining family cohesion.
“Arrests that don’t lead to conviction can show up in background checks and block people from finding a job or an apartment,” Lara said about SB 393, which is sponsored by the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. “Studies show that 40 percent of men and 20 percent of women were arrested before age 23, yet nearly half were never convicted.”
To continue allowing public access to arrest records only casts a pall of suspicion over people not convicted of a crime and serves no public safety purpose and holds people back from jobs, which is the number one crime-fighting tool we have, Lara and Mitchell agreed.
The second measure, SB 355, would remove the requirement that criminal defendants reimburse the courts for appointed counsel costs unless the defendant is actually convicted of the charged crime.
“Under current criminal law, a low-income, homeless or impoverished person who is accused of a crime that they did not commit can still be ordered to pay the court for the costs of a court-appointed attorney,” Mitchell said. “The impact of this law subjects an individual who was falsely arrested, wrongly imprisoned, wrongly prosecuted and ultimately exonerated to pay an ‘accusation tax’ penalty of thousands of dollars for asserting their constitutional right to an attorney.”
The three other measures that last week passed the Public Safety Committee are:
SB 190 – Juvenile Fees
Ends the harmful, unlawful and costly assessment and collection of administrative fees against families with youth in the juvenile justice system. Status: To be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services April 4.
SB 394 – Juveniles Life Without the Possibility of Parole
Brings California into compliance with Montgomery v. Louisiana decision that juveniles cannot be sentenced to Life Without Parole. Status: To be reviewed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on a date yet to be set.
SB 395 – Miranda Rights for Youth
Requires youth under the age of 18 consult with legal counsel before they waive their constitutional rights in interrogations with police. Status: Awaiting assignment by the Senate Rules Committee.
The two measures awaiting their first policy hearings are:
SB 180 – Drug Sentence Enhancements
This reform measure is a modest step toward enacting the bipartisan movement to end wasteful incarceration spending in favor of community reinvestment. Status: First hearing on April 18.
SB 439 – Minimum Age Incarceration
This would exclude children age 11 and younger from juvenile court jurisdiction and would promote the rights, health and well-being of the child by curbing premature exposure to incarceration. Status: Awaiting assignment to a policy-review committee. Status: First hearing on April 4.
The two lawmakers explained the bills during a recent press conference. Watch that press conference HERE.