BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 242
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:   May 6, 2009 

                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                                Kevin De Leon, Chair

                     AB 242 (Nava) - As Amended:  April 21, 2009 

          Policy Committee:                              Public  
          SafetyVote:  7-0

          Urgency:     No                   State Mandated Local Program:  
          Yes    Reimbursable:              No

           SUMMARY  


          This bill:


          Increases the penalty, from a misdemeanor, punishable by up to  
          six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000, to a  
          wobbler, punishable by up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine  
          of up to $1,000, or 16 months, 2, or 3 years in state prison,  
          for being present as a spectator at a dogfight, as specified. 


          Increases the penalty for possessing or training a dog for  
          dogfighting, or for causing a dogfight, from 16 months, 2, or 3  
          years in state prison and/  or  a fine of up to $50,000, to the  
          same prison term  and  a fine of up to $50,000. 


           FISCAL EFFECT  


          1)Significant annual GF costs, potentially in excess of $1  
            million, for increased state prison commitments. Should two  
            dozen spectators, out of the alleged thousands of spectators,  
            be committed to state prison, annual costs would exceed $1  
            million. 


          2)This bill, by creating a new felony, would also create  
            additional - and costly - third strike exposure, triggering a  
            life term for persons with two prior violent or serious  








                                                                  AB 242
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            felonies, or a double term for a person with one prior serious  
            or violent felony. If one person per year received a third  
            strike as a result of a felony conviction under this bill, the  
            annual cost in 10 years would exceed $400,000. 


          3)Significant nonreimbursable local law enforcement and  
            incarceration costs for increased county jail commitments,  
            depending upon how many persons are jailed for watching  
            dogfights. 


          4)Unknown potential state and local revenue increase to the  
            extent making a mandatory fine of up to $50,000 increases the  
            amount of fines levied and collected. 


           COMMENT


          1)Rationale  . The author contends dog fighting is a sadistic  
            sport and that increasing the penalties for spectatorship will  
            deter attendance and thus incidence. The author and the Humane  
            Society of the United States contends that tens of thousands  
            of people are involved in dog fighting and that punishing  
            spectatorship as a misdemeanor makes it more difficult for law  
            enforcement officials to effectively prosecute dog fighters.  
            Often, organized dog fights occur with several matches held  
            one after the other. When police raid a dog fight it is  
            difficult to differentiate between spectators and participants  
            who were going to fight their dog in the next match.  


          2)Concerns.  


              a)   Should the penalty for being a spectator at a dogfight  
               be the same as the penalty for actually training and  
               fighting the dogs  ? Is the current six-month county jail  
               penalty inadequate? Should the penalty for spectatorship at  
               a dogfight be greater than the penalty for spectatorship at  
               a cockfight (six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000)?  


             b)   This bill would make spectatorship at a dogfight a  








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               potential third strike  .  


             c)   Given current fiscal conditions and prison overcrowding,  
               increasing the prison population for this offense may be  
               problematic  . The state is in the throes of a 2009-10 budget  
               deficit that may exceed $15 billion. Current prison  
               overcrowding is under review by federal courts. Plaintiffs  
               are requesting emergency inmate releases, perhaps on a  
               scale of tens of thousands of inmates. The governor is  
               proposing increased credits for inmates and summary parole  
               release. The federal prison receiver is ordering the state  
               to spend billions for inmate health care facilities in  
               addition to the current $6 billion prison construction  
               program.  


          3)Opposition  . According to CA Attorneys for Criminal Justice  
            (CACJ), "... there is no sound policy basis to punish someone  
            in the spectator status equally with the organizers and  
            perpetrators of the crime of dog fighting. The organizers and  
            persons engaging in raising dogs for dog fights are already  
            punishable on the felony level. The crime of being a spectator  
            is also already punished, and is punished on a level  
            commensurate with the individual's involvement, as a  
            misdemeanor. To increase punishment to allow state prison  
            sentences for this activity without any basis to show this  
            would either deter or prevent illegal activity, we believe  
            would be a senseless escalation of penalty." 




           4)Prior legislation  , AB 2281 (Nava), 2008, was identical to this  
            bill's proposed increased in penalties for being a spectator  
            at a dogfight. AB 2281 was held on this committee's Suspense  
            File.  


           Analysis Prepared by  :    Geoff Long / APPR. / (916) 319-2081