Common Sense Criminal Justice Reform Legislation

By Scott Dominguez

A series of three bills affecting the criminal justice system sponsored by our fellow prosecutors in the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have been introduced in the Legislature and deserve passage.

Senate Bill 194 allows the initial term of probation to be extended to beyond the initial maximum term following a probation violation.  Under current law, if probation is revoked after a hearing during the term of initial probation, a defendant may be placed back on probation but that probation must expire on the date of the original probation grant.

This bill removes this anomaly regarding probation revocations, and will make rehabilitation more meaningful.  In most situations, a violation of probation is indicative that rehabilitative efforts are not succeeding.  This bill will provide additional time for the courts to monitor someone who is found to have violated their probation, and will give the defendant time to comply with the terms of probation designed to make the defendant a productive member of society.

Assembly Bill 1128 is a bill backed jointly by prosecutors and the criminal defense bar.  Current law regarding the disposal of evidence that is held by the court allows such disposal after the first appeal, ignoring the fact that rapid advances in technology may make it possible to obtain forensic results unavailable at the time of initial tests.  Such additional tests can both validate prior evidentiary conclusions and potentially uncover potential wrongful convictions.  This bill will require that in the most serious cases, such evidence be retained for the length of incarceration, and specifies that the court be the custodian of the evidence.

The final bill is Senate Bill 230 that addresses  issues involved in human trafficking, recognizing that just as in domestic violence or sex crime cases, the victim may sometimes recant because of misplaced loyalty to the perpetrator.  Under California Evidence Code sections 1108 and 1109, the legislature has authorized the court to allow prior incidents of conduct by a defendant involving domestic violence and sexual assault to prove the charged crime. Since human trafficking cases often involve similar dynamics, SB 230 will authorize a court to consider allowing prior incidents of conduct in a human trafficking case.

Criminal Justice reforms need to come with common sense checks and balances that address real world situations that prosecutors deal with on a daily basis.  The ADDA supports these three bills and urges passage by the legislature.

Scott Dominguez is a Director of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles. 

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