By Assemblymember Marie Waldron
Recent changes in California’s criminal statutes resulting from passage of Propositions 47 and 57 have reclassified many serious crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. These changes have reduced the justice system’s ability to keep criminals off the street, impeded criminal investigations by restricting DNA collection, and redefined the definition of violent crimes for incarcerated criminals up for parole.
While prisoners convicted of violent crimes often are not eligible for early parole, there are problems with the violent crime definition under current law. Human trafficking of a child, rape of an unconscious person, shooting at an inhabited dwelling or vehicle, assault with a firearm, serial arson, solicitation to commit murder, exploding a bomb to injure people, and many more – are not considered violent crimes. Who would have known?
Most would consider a midnight break-in to be a serious and potentially violent crime. Not anymore. When a burglar breaks into your home and steals property valued under $950, it’s a misdemeanor. If the same burglar returns night after night and steals property valued under $950 each time, every one of those break-ins would still be a misdemeanor.
If apprehended, the burglar would be cited and released. And of course, no DNA would be collected, so if the burglar has committed other crimes there would be no way for the police to know, at least not by using DNA evidence.
Reclassifying felonies to misdemeanors has greatly reduced DNA collection, degrading law enforcement’s ability to investigate many serious crimes, including rape and murder. Feel safer now?
But change could be coming. An initiative, the “Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act,” may be on the November ballot. California’s voters may get another chance to decide which crimes are violent, which are misdemeanors, and which are felonies.
Minority Floor Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.