BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                             Senator Mark Leno, Chair                A
                             2009-2010 Regular Session               B

          AB 2372 (Ammiano)                                          2
          As Amended March 11, 2010 
          Hearing date:  June 29, 2010
          Penal Code

                            GRAND THEFT - THRESHOLD AMOUNT  


          Source:  American Civil Liberties Union; California Attorneys  
          for Criminal Justice

          Prior Legislation: ABx3 14 (Arambula) - 2009, died on the  
          Assembly Floor
                       AB 2705 (Goldberg) - 2003-04, vetoed

          Support:  California Coalition for Women Prisoners; California  
          Public Defenders                                             
          Association; Friends Committee on Legislation; SEIU Local 1000;  
          Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

          Opposition:California Grocers Association

          Assembly Floor Vote:  Ayes 44 - Noes 30

                                         KEY ISSUE



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

          THAT AMOUNT WAS SET IN 1982, TO $950?



          The purpose of this bill is to raise the general value threshold  
          for grand theft from $400, as that value was set in 1982, to  

           Existing law  provides that theft occurs where a person does any  
          of the following:

                 Steals, takes ? or drives away the personal property of  
                  Fraudulently appropriates property which has been  
               entrusted to him or her;  
                  Knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent  
               representation or pretense, defrauds another person of  
               money, labor or personal or real property;  
                  Causes or procures others to report falsely of his or  
               her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing  
               upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently  
               gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains  
               the labor or service of another.  (Penal Code  484.)  

          Existing law  generally provides that theft is a misdemeanor  
          where the value of the property, labor or services involved in  
          the theft does not exceed $400.  Theft is grand theft - an  
          alternate felony-misdemeanor - where the value of the property,  
          labor, or services involved in the theft exceeds $400.   
          Specified exceptions, with a lower threshold amount for grand  
          theft, apply to certain kinds of property, such as avocados and  
          shellfish.  (Pen. Code  487.)
          Existing law  defines "grand theft" as any theft where the money,  
          labor, or real or personal property taken or when the property  



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

          is taken from the person of another is of a value exceeding  
          $400.  [Penal Code Sections 487(a) and 487(c).]

           Existing law  provides that grand theft is committed when the  
          money, labor, or real or personal property taken is of a value  
          in excess of $400, except as specified.  (Pen. Code  487, subd.  

           Existing law  (Pen. Code  487, subd. (b) provides that  
          notwithstanding the value of the property taken, grand theft is  
          committed in any of the following cases:

           When domestic fowls, avocados, or other farm crops are taken  
            of a value exceeding $250;
           When fish or other aquacultural products are taken from a  
            commercial or research operation that is producing that  
            product of a value exceeding $250;
           Where money, labor or property is taken by a servant or  
            employee from his or her principal and aggregates $950 or more  
            in any consecutive 12-month period;
           When the property is taken from the person of another; or,
           When the property taken is, among other things, an automobile,  
            horse or firearm.

           Existing law  provides that if the grand theft of a firearm is a  
          straight felony, punishable by imprisonment in state prison for  
          16 months, 2 or 3 years.  (Pen. Code  489.)

           Existing law  provides that in all cases other than theft of a  
          firearm, grand theft is punishable by imprisonment in county  
          jail for not more than one year or in the state prison.  (Pen.  
          Code  489.)

           Existing law  provides that theft in other cases is petty theft.   
          (Pen. Code  488.)

           Existing law  states that petty theft is punishable by a fine not  
          exceeding $1,000; by imprisonment in the county jail not  
          exceeding six months; or both.  (Pen. Code  490.)



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

           Existing law  provides that any person who enters specified  
          buildings, including a vehicle, railroad car, locked or sealed  
          cargo container, whether or not mounted on a vehicle, with  
          intent to commit grand or petty theft or any felony is guilty of  
          a burglary.  (Pen. Code  459.)

           This bill  increases the threshold amount that constitutes grand  
          theft from $400 to $950, unless a more specific provision  

          The severe prison overcrowding problem California has  
          experienced for the last several years has not been solved.  In  
          December of 2006 plaintiffs in two federal lawsuits against the  
          Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sought a  
          court-ordered limit on the prison population pursuant to the  
          federal Prison Litigation Reform Act.  On January 12, 2010, a  
          federal three-judge panel issued an order requiring the state to  
          reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity  
          -- a reduction of roughly 40,000 inmates -- within two years.   
          In a prior, related 184-page Opinion and Order dated August 4,  
          2009, that court stated in part:

               "California's correctional system is in a tailspin,"  
               the state's independent oversight agency has reported.  
               . . .  (Jan. 2007 Little Hoover Commission Report,  
               "Solving California's Corrections Crisis: Time Is  
               Running Out").  Tough-on-crime politics have increased  
               the population of California's prisons dramatically  
               while making necessary reforms impossible. . . .  As a  
               result, the state's prisons have become places "of  
               extreme peril to the safety of persons" they house . .  
               .  (Governor Schwarzenegger's Oct. 4, 2006 Prison  
               Overcrowding State of Emergency Declaration), while  
               contributing little to the safety of California's  
               residents . . .   California "spends more on  
               corrections than most countries in the world," but the  
               state "reaps fewer public safety benefits." . . .  .   
               Although California's existing prison system serves  



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

               neither the public nor the inmates well, the state has  
               for years been unable or unwilling to implement the  
               reforms necessary to reverse its continuing  
               deterioration.  (Some citations omitted.)

               . . .

               The massive 750% increase in the California prison  
               population since the mid-1970s is the result of  
               political decisions made over three decades, including  
               the shift to inflexible determinate sentencing and the  
               passage of harsh mandatory minimum and three-strikes  
               laws, as well as the state's counterproductive parole  
               system.  Unfortunately, as California's prison  
               population has grown, California's political  
               decision-makers have failed to provide the resources  
               and facilities required to meet the additional need  
               for space and for other necessities of prison  
               existence.  Likewise, although state-appointed experts  
               have repeatedly provided numerous methods by which the  
               state could safely reduce its prison population, their  
               recommendations have been ignored, underfunded, or  
               postponed indefinitely.  The convergence of  
               tough-on-crime policies and an unwillingness to expend  
               the necessary funds to support the population growth  
               has brought California's prisons to the breaking  
               point.  The state of emergency declared by Governor  
               Schwarzenegger almost three years ago continues to  
               this day, California's prisons remain severely  
               overcrowded, and inmates in the California prison  
               system continue to languish without constitutionally  
               adequate medical and mental health care.<1>

          <1>   Three Judge Court Opinion and Order, Coleman v.  
          Schwarzenegger, Plata v. Schwarzenegger, in the United States  
          District Courts for the Eastern District of California and the  
          Northern District of California United States District Court  
          composed of three judges pursuant to Section 2284, Title 28  
          United States Code (August 4, 2009).



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

          The court stayed implementation of its January 12, 2010 ruling  
          pending the state's appeal of the decision to the U.S. Supreme  
          Court.  On Monday, June 14, 2010, The U.S. Supreme Court agreed  
          to hear the state's appeal in this case.   

           This bill  does not appear to aggravate the prison overcrowding  
          crisis described above.




          1  Need for This Bill  

          According to the author:

               Existing law sets the minimum threshold for grand  
               theft at $400.  This amount has not been indexed for  
               inflation and has not been adjusted since 1982.  Last  
               year, we adjusted the threshold for 39 property crimes  
               but did not adjust grand theft.  Grand theft was  
               established as a crime in 1867 for crimes involving  
               more than $50.  That figure was first adjusted in 1923  
               and increased to $200.

               According to the United States Department of Labor's  
               Consumer Price Index, the $200 threshold established  
               in 1923 if adjusted for inflation would be $2,534 in  
               2010.  The $400 level established in 1982 would be  
               around $900 today.  AB 2372 adjusts the threshold  
               amount for the first time in a generation, taking into  
               consideration these inflationary factors, and sets the  
               amount at $950.  Leaving the grand theft threshold  
               itself unchanged undermines the impact of the other  
               property crimes adjustment because the crimes could  
               alternatively be charged as grand theft.  In 2009, the  
               Department of Corrections estimated savings of $68.4  
               million dollars for the 2010/11 Budget if all property  
               crimes were adjusted for inflation.  Leaving the grand  
               theft threshold unchanged undermines these savings.   
               The Department estimates there will be 2,152 fewer  
               defendants sent to state prison for these property  
               crimes by December 2011 if AB 2732 is enacted into  



          2.  Adjusting Grand Theft Value Threshold for Inflation  

          The author's statement notes that the grand theft amount was  
          originally set at $50 in 1872.  The amount was raised to $200 in  
          1923, an amount equal to approximately $2,500 today.  This bill  
          raises the threshold from $400 to $950 to reflect the effect of  
          inflation on the threshold since it was set in 1982.  Again, as  
          noted by the author, inflation effectively changes the nature of  
          the crime over time, expanding the reach of a felony.

          In coming years, $950 will likely not reflect the same value of  
          property that it does today.  The Legislature should perhaps  
          consider including a provision in the grand theft law that  
          directs the Legislature to review the effect of inflation on the  
          threshold value for grand theft on a regular basis, such as at  
          the end of each 10-year period.


          3.  Related Legislation

           SBX3 18 (Ducheny), Chapter 28, Statutes of 2009, increased the  
          threshold amount for thefts of specified agricultural goods and  
          specified aquacultural products from $100 to $250.  SBx3 18 also  
          increased the threshold amount of thefts of money, labor, or  
          real or personal property taken by an agent, servant, or  
          employee from $400 to $950.  Provisions equivalent to those in  
          this bill were contained in AB x3 14 (Arambula), which died on  
          the Assembly Floor.

          4.  Legislation from Prior Sessions   

          AB 2705 (Goldberg), of the 2003-04 Legislative Session, would  
          have increased the threshold for grand theft from $400 to $1,000  
          and the threshold amount for specified thefts from $100 to $250.  

          AB 2705 was vetoed.  



                                                          AB 2372 (Ammiano)

          AB 2668 (DeVore), of the 2007-08 Legislative Session, would have  
          included theft or vandalism of fire equipment within the  
          definition of grant theft.  AB 2668 failed passage in this  

          AB 2827 (Runner), Ch. 105, Stats. 2008, added defrauding a  
          public housing authority to the definition of grand theft.