Senate Bill 10 Puts a Target on Crime Victims

Marc Klaas
President of the KlaasKids Foundation

As violent crimes steadily rise, State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) have introduced Senate Bill 10 to end California’s bail system.

The measure is a full, frontal assault on Marsy’s Law and California’s Victim Bill of Rights that protect victims by providing a constitutional right for victims of heinous crimes to be notified, informed and be given the opportunity to provide testimony before an accused defendant can be released from jails.

This past month the Department of Justice’s 2016 report of annual crimes in California documented 174,701 homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults in the past year. Over the same period, law enforcement agencies recorded 1,930 killings, the highest number since 2009.

Car thefts also rose, up a cumulative 22 percent over the past six years.

Inundated with a tsunami of rising crime, overworked and understaffed police departments are solving crime rates more slowly than they did in the past. More crimes went unsolved altogether.

KPCC radio recently noted:

Police and sheriff’s departments solved about 45.8 percent of violent crimes in California last year. That’s down about 2.6 percent from the year before.

“Clearance rates” for homicides dropped 3.9 percent. (A crime is considered cleared when at least one person is arrested, charged and turned over for prosecution.)

Police in California appear to be having particular trouble with property crimes, with the clearance rate dropping 8.7 percent last year – and 17.3 percent over the past six years. Of course, police rarely solve most property crimes. For example, they only cleared 10.7 percent of burglaries last year.

While we acknowledge that California’s bail system is in need of some structural changes and reform, SB 10 cuts the public’s protections from dangerous felons and criminals away like an out-of-control chainsaw. What are needed instead are a scalpel and a thoughtful, methodical surgeon’s hands.

SB 10 utterly fails when it comes to accounting for the rights of the victims to be notified or to be heard as part of the judicial process. Defendants will be rushed back onto the streets before victims can exercise their rights under Marsy’s Law and without consideration of key provisions of the Victims Bill of Rights.

California’s Victims Bill of Rights requires, “In fixing the amount of bail, the court shall take into consideration the seriousness of the offense charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial of hearing of the case.” If SB 10 does away with the bail system, this protection will cease to be part of the judicial process.

SB 10, as currently written, unfortunately only provides consideration of information about the current offense. With exceptions, it will allow, “Recommendations on conditions of release for the person immediately upon booking.” Turning dangerous accused defendants loose without consideration that they may reoffend or commit new crimes — even if they are still high on narcotics or other drugs.

By rushing the process to release defendants back onto the streets, SB 10 makes it impossible to facilitate victims their guaranteed rights and protections. Without an incentive for criminals charged with crimes to appear at later court dates, the number that fail to appear will skyrocket and many victims will never receive justice or be safe from reprisals.

SB 10 is an ill-conceived and unnecessary bill that completely disregards public safety and the safety of crime victims. It follows the current trend in criminal justice legislation that puts more value on the rights of accused criminals than it does on the health, safety and welfare of crime victims or the greater public at large.

Marc Klaas, President of the KlaasKids Foundation – Established in 1994 to give meaning to the death of my twelve-year-old daughter kidnap and murder victim Polly Hannah Klaas and to create a legacy in her name that would be protective of children for generations to come. The Foundation’s mission is to stop crimes against children.

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