By Eric Siddall
The latest assault on the criminal justice system is a little gem called AB 1909.
This piece of legislation would make it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for any prosecuting attorney to withhold or falsify evidence. Nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong.
Why? Because the bill targets prosecutors but says nothing about defense attorneys. So, by inference, it would be OK for defense attorneys to “intentionally and in bad faith alter, modify, or withhold” evidence.
We fully agree that prosecutors should be held to the highest of standards, and we have no tolerance for those who flaunt the rules. But these standards should apply to all attorneys in the criminal justice system – defense and prosecutors alike.
The current system acknowledges this. Both sides have equal responsibilities to disclose evidence before a trial begins. As a result, the playing field is even. AB 1909, by contrast, tilts the playing field to benefit defense attorneys and the criminals they represent.
AB 1909 would be troublesome enough if it existed in a vacuum. But, unfortunately, it isn’t an outlier or a random piece of legislation.
AB 1909 is part of a pattern of attacks on public safety and crime victims, and it must be considered in the contest of other troubling pro-criminal ballot initiatives, legislation and judicial decisions. Such as Prop. 47, which has flooded the street with violent felons, contributing to a surge in crime throughout the state. And Gov. Brown’s felon-freeing November ballot initiative, which would make felons eligible for parole after serving 50 percent of the sentence for their primary offense – regardless of any enhancements that had been added onto the sentence, and regardless of previous strikes for brutal crimes such as rape and murder. And a judge’s recent decision to give a gentle slap on the wrist to a Stanford student who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman.
Not surprisingly, the liberal-dominated State Assembly passed AB 1909 by a 60-18 vote. The Senate’s Public Safety Committee subsequently approved it by a 6-1 vote, and it is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The ADDA will lobby hard against this latest piece of misguided legislation, and will keep our membership informed about our efforts and the status of the bill.