BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 1969
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   March 25, 2008
          Chief Counsel:      Gregory Pagan


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Jose Solorio, Chair

                AB 1969 (Plescia) - As Introduced:  February 14, 2008


           SUMMARY  :   Increases the penalty to three, four, or five years  
          in the state prison for any person who, with the intent to cause  
          injury or death, personally causes the death of a horse or dog  
          being used by, or under the supervision of, a peace officer. 

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Provides that any person who maliciously strikes, beats,  
            kicks, stabs, shoots, or throws, hurls, or projects any rock  
            or object at a any horse being used by a peace officer, or any  
            dog being supervised by a peace officer in the performance of  
            his or her duties is a public offense and if injury is  
            inflicted, the offense is punishable by imprisonment in the  
            county jail for a term not to exceed one year.  If the injury  
            inflicted is serious injury, the offense is punishable by  
            imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year; by a  
            fine not to exceed $2,000; or by imprisonment in the state  
            prison for 16 months, two, or three years.  (Penal Code  
            Section 600(a).)

          2)Provides that any person who willfully and maliciously  
            interferes with, or obstructs, any horse or dog being used by  
            a peace officer or any dog being supervised by a peace officer  
            in the performance of his or her duties by frightening,  
            teasing, agitating, harassing, or hindering the horse or dog  
            shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not  
            exceeding one year; by a fine not exceeding $1,000; or by  
            both.  (Penal Code Section 600(b).)

          3)Provides that any person who, with the intent to inflict  
            serious injury or death, personally causes the death,  
            destruction, or serious physical injury of a horse or dog  
            being used by, or under the direction of, a peace officer  
            shall, upon conviction, be punished by an additional and  
            consecutive one year in the state prison.  (Penal Code Section  








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            600(c).)
           
          4)Defines "serious injury" to include bone fracture, loss or  
            impairment of function of any bodily member, wounds requiring  
            extensive suturing, or serious crippling.  (Penal Code Section  
            600(c).)

          5)Provides that when battery is committed against any person,  
            including a peace officer and serious bodily injury is  
            inflicted on the person, the battery is punishable by  
            imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years  
            or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year.   
            (Penal Code Section 243(d).)

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "AB 1969 will  
            stiffen current punishment for the deliberate harm to working  
            animals specifically dogs and horses that are under the  
            supervision of law enforcement. In this day and age, these  
            animals are there in the direct line of harm. They are in just  
            as much danger as regular police officers. We need to ensure  
            the over all safety and respect to these animals, and under  
            current law the penalty to harming, harassing and even killing  
            these animals is completely too lenient." 

           2)Sentence Increase  :  Under existing law, any person who  
            willfully and maliciously strikes, beats, kicks, cuts stabs,  
            or throws any rock or other object likely to produce injury on  
            any horse or dog being used, or supervised, by a peace officer  
            that results in serious injury is guilty of a public offense  
            punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years in the state prison.   
            (Penal Code Section 600(a).)  Any person who, in violation of  
            the above section and with the intent to inflict injury or  
            death, personally causes death or serious bodily injury shall,  
            upon conviction, be punished by an additional and consecutive  
            one year in the state prison.  (Penal Code 600(c).)   
            Therefore, under existing law, a person convicted of causing  
            the death of a police animal can be sentenced to 28 months, 3  
            or 4 years in the state prison.

          This bill increases the existing one-year additional  
            enhancement, under the above circumstances, if the person  








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            causes the death of the horse or dog to three, four, or five  
            years in the state prison.  However, the author has indicated  
            that it is not his intent to create a sentence enhancement,  
            but rather to increase the base punishment for the substantive  
            offense of inflicting serious bodily injury on a police animal  
            that results in the death of the animal.  This bill should be  
            amended to reflect that intent.  Given the existing penalty,  
            with the one year enhancement of 28 months, 3 or 4 years in  
            the state prison for assault on a peace officer animal  
            resulting in the death of the animal, is it necessary to  
            increase the penalty?  Is there any reason to believe that the  
            existing penalty is inadequate?  Is there any evidence that  
            these types of offenses are not being severely punished?

           3)Prison Overcrowding and a Court-Ordered Population Cap  :  As  
            noted above, this bill increases the penalty to three, four,  
            or five years in the state prison for any person who, with the  
            intent to cause injury or death, personally causes the death  
            of a horse or dog being used by, or under the supervision of,  
            a peace officer.  Concerns for overcrowding arise because of  
            the increase in the prison term when the offense is already  
            punishable by a substantial prison term.  As California's  
            prison crisis worsens, close attention should be paid to  
            legislation that increases prison overcrowding.  The  
            California Policy Research Center (CPRC) recently issued a  
            report on the status of California's prisons.  The report  
            stated, "California has the largest prison population of any  
            state in the nation, with more than 171,000 inmates in 33  
            adult prisons, and the state's annual correctional spending,  
            including jails and probation, amounts to $8.92 billion.   
            Despite the high cost of corrections, fewer California  
            prisoners participate in relevant treatment programs than  
            comparable states, and its inmate-to-officer ratio is  
            considerably higher.  While the nation's prisons average one  
            correctional officer to every 4.5 inmates, the average  
            California officer is responsible for 6.5 inmates. Although  
            officer salaries are higher than average, their ranks are  
            spread dangerously thin and there is a severe vacancy rate."   
            (Petersilia, "Understanding California Corrections",  
            California Policy Research Center, (May 2006).)  California's  
            prison population will likely exceed 180,000 by 2010.

          According to the Little Hoover Commission, "Lawsuits filed in  
            three federal courts alleging that the current level of  
            overcrowding constitutes cruel and unusual punishment ask that  








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            the courts appoint a panel of federal judges to manage  
            California's prison population.  United States District Judge  
            Lawrence Karlton, the first judge to hear the motion, gave the  
            State until June 2007 to show progress in solving the  
            overpopulation crisis.  Judge Karlton clearly would prefer not  
            to manage California's prison population.  At a December 2006  
            hearing, Judge Karlton told lawyers representing the  
            Schwarzenegger administration that he is not inclined 'to  
            spend forever running the state prison system.'  However, he  
            also warned the attorneys, 'You tell your client June 4 may be  
            the end of the line.  It may really be the end of the line.'

          "Despite the rhetoric, 30 years of 'tough on crime' politics has  
            not made the state safer.  Quite the opposite:  today  
            thousands of hardened, violent criminals are released without  
            regard to the danger they present to an unsuspecting public.   
            Years of political posturing have taken a good idea -  
            determinate sentencing - and warped it beyond recognition with  
            a series of laws passed with no thought to their cumulative  
            impact.  And these laws stripped away incentives for offenders  
            to change or improve themselves while incarcerated.  

          "Inmates, who are willing to improve their education, learn a  
            job skill or kick a drug habit find that programs are few and  
            far between, a result of budget choices and overcrowding.  
            Consequently, offenders are released into California  
            communities with the criminal tendencies and addictions that  
            first led to their incarceration.  They are ill-prepared to do  
            more than commit new crimes and create new victims."  (Little  
            Hoover Commission Report, "Solving California's Corrections  
            Crisis:  Time is Running Out", pg. 1, 2 (2007).)

          In light of the escalating overcrowding situation in  
            California's state prison system, should the Legislature  
            increase the state prison term for persons convicted of  
            causing the death of a dog or horse being used by a peace  
            officer?

           4)Argument in Support  :  The  California State Sheriffs'  
            Association  states, "Law enforcement dogs and horses serve a  
            number of operational functions including enforcing public  
            order, search and rescue, bomb detection, and narcotics.   
            These animals are instrumental in law enforcement efforts.   
            Accordingly, a great deal of funding and officer time is  
            afforded to these animals for training, maintenance, and care,  








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            not to mention the personal connection that is formed between  
            the law enforcement unit and the animal."   
           
           5)Argument in Opposition  :  The  California Public Defenders  
            Association  believes, "This bill seeks to increase the felony  
            triad for crimes against police dogs and horses from the  
            present 16 months, 2 years and 3 years to a higher triad of 3  
            years, 4 years and 5 years.

          "It is difficult to understand why an increase of penalty for  
            this crime is sought, when it is so unlikely that the  
            legislation will reduce criminality or have a deterrent  
            effect.  The prison system is already overcrowded and this  
            proposed legislation would exacerbate overcrowding."  
           
           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          California Correctional Peace Officers' Association
          California Correctional Supervisors Organization
          California State Sheriffs' Association
          San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department

           Opposition 
           
          California Public Defenders Association

           
          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gregory Pagan / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744