BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó

                                                                  AB 239
                                                                  Page 1

          Date of Hearing:   May 3, 2011
          Counsel:                Milena Nelson

                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                    AB 239 (Ammiano) - As Amended:  April 27, 2011

           SUMMARY  :  Requires the Crime Laboratory Review Task Force 
          (CLRTF) reconvene to prepare a supplemental report, to be 
          submitted to the Legislature by July 1, 2013, that includes a 
          recommendations regarding the composition of a statewide body to 
          oversee crime laboratories, as specified.   Specifically,  this 
          bill  :   

          1)Requires CLRTF to reconvene to prepare a supplemental report 
            that includes recommendations regarding the composition of a 
            statewide body to oversee crime laboratories.

          2)Provides that the oversight body shall perform the following 

             a)   Implement federal legislation or guidelines imposed 
               directly on crime laboratories or imposed indirectly as a 
               requirement for receiving a grant;

             b)   Oversee investigations into acts of misconduct or 
               negligence committed by any employee or contractor of a 
               crime laboratory;

             c)   Collect data generated by investigations in order to 
               determine the root causes of crime;

             d)   Identify systemic failures and make recommendations for 
               preventing future problems;

             e)   Study methods to facilitate communication between 
               laboratories and stakeholders and draft guidelines for 
               disclosure and discovery of crime laboratory documents; 

             f)   Make recommendations to the Legislature and local 
               governmental entities regarding the allocation of resources 


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               to crime laboratories throughout the state to ensure that 
               taxpayers' funds are maximized and distributed in a more 
               equitable manner.  

          3)States that the reporting requirements, as specified, are to 
            be inoperative by July 1, 2017 and that the report shall be 
            submitted to the Legislature in compliance with provisions of 
            the Government Code, as specified. 

           EXISTING LAW:
          1)Requires the California Department of Justice (DOJ) to 
            establish and chair the CLRTF, comprising of representatives 
            from DOJ, the California Association of Crime Laboratory 
            Directors; the California Association of Criminalists; the 
            International Association for Identification; the American 
            Society of Crime Laboratory Directors; the Department of the 
            California Highway Patrol; the California State Sheriffs' 
            Association, from a department with a crime laboratory; the 
            California District Attorneys Association, from an office with 
            a crime laboratory; the California Police Chiefs Association, 
            from a department with a crime laboratory; the California 
            Peace Officers' Association; the California Public Defenders 
            Association; a private criminal defense attorney organization; 
            the Judicial Council, to be appointed by the Chief Justice; 
            the Office of the Speaker of the Assembly; the Office of the 
            President pro Tempore of the Senate; and two representatives 
            to be appointed by the Governor.  ĘPenal Code Section 11062(a) 
            and (b).]

          2)Requires the CLRTF to review and make recommendations as to 
            best configure, fund, and improve the delivery of state and 
            local crime laboratory services in the future.  To the extent 
            feasible, the review and recommendations shall include, but 
            are not limited to, the following issues ĘPenal Code Section 

             a)   With respect to organization and management of crime 
               laboratory services, consideration of whether the existing 
               mix of state and local crime laboratories is the most 
               effective and efficient means to meet California's future 
               needs; whether laboratories should be further consolidated, 
               and who should have oversight; if some management for some 
               laboratories should be transferred; whether all 
               laboratories should provide similar services; and how other 


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               states have addressed similar issues;

             b)   With respect to staff and training, consideration of how 
               to address recruiting and retention problems of laboratory 
               staff; whether educational and training opportunities are 
               adequate to supply the needs of fully trained forensic 
               criminalists in the future; whether continuing education is 
               available to ensure that forensic science personnel are up 
               to date in their field of expertise; if crime laboratory 
               personnel should be certified and if so, the appropriate 
               agency to assume this responsibility; and the future 
               educational role if any for the University of California or 
               the California State University;

             c)   With respect to funding, consideration of whether the 
               current method of funding laboratories is predictable, 
               stable, and adequate to meet future growth demands and to 
               provide timely and accurate testing results and the 
               adequacy of salary structures to attract and retain 
               competent analyst and examiners; and,

             d)   With respect to performance standards and equipment, 
               consideration of whether workload demands are being 
               prioritized properly and whether there are important 
               workload issues not being addressed; if existing 
               laboratories have necessary capabilities, staffing and 
               equipment; and if statewide standards should be developed 
               for the accreditation of forensic laboratories, including 
               minimum staffing levels, and if so, a determination 
               regarding what entity should serve as the sanctioning body. 

          3)Requires the CLRTF to seek input from specialized law 
            enforcement disciplines, other state and local agencies, 
            relevant advocacy groups, and the public.  The final report 
            also shall include a complete inventory of existing California 
            crime laboratories.  This inventory shall contain sufficient 
            details on staffing, workload, budget, major instrumentation, 
            and organizational placement within the controlling agency.  
            ĘPenal Code Section 11062(d).]

          4)Requires the CLRTF to submit a final report of its findings to 
            the Department of Finance and the Budget and Public Safety 
            Committees of both houses of the Legislature.  ĘPenal Code 
            Section 11062(f).]


                                                                  AB 239
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           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "In 2010, San 
            Francisco's criminal laboratory was hit with a scandal 
            involving stolen drug evidence, contaminated DNA samples, 
            destroyed records, and sample switching.  This scandal alone 
            prompted hundreds of narcotics cases to be thrown out or not 
            charged because of possible evidence tampering, and the review 
            of over 1,400 more for possible dismissal.

          "While the charges of misconduct are shocking, they are not 
            unique to San Francisco. In recent years, laboratories in 
            Santa Clara and the Central Valley have had similar problems 
            of stolen drug evidence, and misconduct.  These cases raise 
            serious red flags about the management, and integrity of 
            criminal laboratories, which not only effects public's 
            perception of the criminal justice system, but also the 
            numerous people who potentially might be wrongfully convicted 
            due to serious neglect.

          "In a 2007 bi-partisan effort, the Legislature created the CLRTF 
            to review and make recommendations as to how to improve the 
            delivery of state and local crime laboratory services for the 
            future (Pen. Code, § 1106(c)).  In November 2009, the CLRTF 
            issued an initial report that called for the creation of a 
            state oversight or advisory body to review forensic science 
            and crime laboratory issues, and that the specifics of this 
            proposal, including the composition and functions of this 
            body, would be described in a supplemental report published in 
            one year of the initial report.  Despite the growing problems 
            in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Joaquin Counties' crime 
            labs, the CLRTF voted to terminate itself, and consequently a 
            follow up report was never produced.

          "According to the CLRTF's initial report, states across the 
            nation, as many as 16 such as New York, Texas, Washington 
            State, have created an entity charged with some degree of 
            oversight responsibility over crime laboratories.  While the 
            scope of these entities ranges from make up to the purpose, 
            they all are concerned about the challenges facing crime 
            laboratories, and believe that crime laboratory oversight is 
            essential in creating high quality forensics testing and just 


                                                                  AB 239
                                                                  Page 5

            criminal justice system.  California must follow in suit.

          "Criminal laboratories play an integral role in the criminal 
            justice system, however cases of serious misconduct, neglect, 
            and poor practices cast doubt and mistrust in criminal cases 
            and the justice system.  AB 239 seeks to address the critical 
            need of statewide crime laboratory oversight in California to 
            ensure that all criminal cases are handled fairly and 

           2)Background  :  According to background provided by the author, 
            "In October of 2007, AB 1079 was signed into law and Penal 
            Code Section 11062, which established the CLRTF, was enacted.  
            This legislation established a task force, the purpose of 
            which was to examine existing public crime laboratories in the 
            State of California and make recommendations regarding 'how 
            best to configure, fund, and improve the delivery of state and 
            local crime laboratory services in the future.'  The 
            legislation listed some of the specific issues the task force 
            was to address.  These recommendations were due on or before 
            July 1, 2009.

          "This task force met over a period of approximately two years 
            and in November of 2009, issued a report entitled, An 
            Examination of Forensic Science in California.  This report is 
            publically available at 
    In this report, 
            the CLRTF described its findings and recommendations.  One of 
            the recommendations made by the CLRTF was for the State of 
            California to establish state-wide oversight over public crime 
            laboratories.  In addition, during the pendency of the CLRTF, 
            the National Academy of Science issued its report, 
            Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States - A Path 
            Forward.  This report in conjunction with a number of crime 
            lab scandals that have occurred in this state and others, made 
            it clear that the recommendation made by the CLRTF regarding 
            oversight should be adopted and legislation should accordingly 
            be drafted to establish such an entity in this state.

          "The report stated, '(t)he call for a unified statewide 
            perspective on forensic science issues is a product of the 
            various concerns expressed elsewhere in this report.  While 
            some laboratory shortcomings identified by the Task Force can 
            be addressed locally by individual laboratories, others would 
            be most effectively studied, and corrected, by means of 


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            inter-jurisdiction coordination and advocacy at a state 
            government level.  Thus, the creation of a statewide entity 
            concerned with the timely delivery of reliable forensic 
            science should be considered.'

          "At or about the time the CLRTF issued its report, a request was 
            made to grant permission to the CLRTF to continue beyond the 
            expiration date set by the legislation in order for the CLRTF 
            to prepare a report that would specifically address the 
            functions and composition of a state-wide oversight body.  The 
            request was granted and the task met three additional times.  
            However, for a number of reasons the CLRTF did not complete 
            the task of preparing this supplemental report.

          "The original report prepared by the CLRTF in Chapter 6 
            describes in detail the functions an oversight body could 
            undertake in order to improve the functioning of crime labs in 
            this state.  Thus, there is truly no need for further 
            discussions by the CLRTF regarding the functions and role an 
            oversight body would play.  The original report provides the 
            Legislature with the necessary information on the issue of 

          "However, while the report provides a comprehensive description 
            of the functions a state-wide oversight body would provide 
            should such a body be established, it does not make a 
            recommendation regarding how such an oversight body would be 
            configured.  It is essential the Legislature have all the 
            necessary information prior to drafting legislation that would 
            establish a state-wide crime laboratory oversight.  Thus, the 
            Legislature should be provided information regarding the 
            optimum number of individuals who should serve on this entity 
            as well as the backgrounds and qualifications of those who 
            should sit.

          "There is however, no reason for the CLRTF to make an additional 
            recommendation regarding the role of an oversight body as all 
            the necessary information is available in the original report 
            prepared by the CLRTF.  The report sets out all possible 
            functions, as well as the reasons the CLRTF identified each 
            function listed.

          "AB 239 as amended provides the CLRTF be reconvened for the sole 
            purpose of making recommendations how best configure a 
            state-wide oversight body whose responsibilities will include 


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            but not be limited to"   (a) implementing federal legislation 
            and/or guidelines imposed directly on crime labs or indirectly 
            as a requirement of accepting a grant, (b) oversee 
            investigations into acts of misconduct or negligence, (c) 
            collect data generated by investigations in order to determine 
            root causes, (d) identify systemic failures and make 
            recommendations for preventing future problems, (e) study 
            means to facilitate communication between labs and 
            stakeholders and draft guidelines for disclosure and discovery 
            of crime lab documents, and (f) make recommendations to the 
            Legislature and local government regarding the allocation of 
            resources to crime laboratories throughout the state to ensure 
            that taxpayers' funds are not wasted and are distributed in a 
            more equitable manner.

          "Specifically, the legislation would require the CLRTF to make a 
            recommendation regarding the optimum number of individuals to 
            sit on a state-wide oversight body and a description of 
            background and training the individuals who sit should have."

           3)Report by the California Commission on the Fair Administration 
            of Justice  :  The California Commission on the Fair 
            Administration of Justice was established by California State 
            Senate Resolution No. 44, "to study and review the 
            administration of criminal justice in California, determine 
            the extent to which that process has failed in the past, 
            examine safeguards and improvements, and recommend proposals 
            to further ensure that the administration of criminal justice 
            in California is fair, just, and accurate." 

          In a February 20, 2007 report, the Commission made a number of 
            recommendations to address the problem of DNA testing 
            backlogs, as well as other problems in California.  These 

             a)   The DOJ should immediately ascertain the staffing levels 
               required for the State Laboratory to reduce the backlog in 
               DNA profiles to 30 days or less, both now and when the 
               future demands of Proposition 69 take effect.

             b)   Emergency budget appropriations should be immediately 
               introduced, to provide state funding to staff the State 
               Laboratory at the levels ascertained pursuant to the first 


                                                                  AB 239
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             c)   The California Attorney General should immediately 
               commence consultation with state and local public 
               laboratories, criminalists, law enforcement, prosecutor's 
               offices, public defenders and private defense lawyers, 
               victim representatives and judges to address the problems 
               of DNA forensic technology resources in California.  The 
               following concerns should be urgently addressed:

               i)     Identify the nature and scope of current capacity 
                 problems, backlogs of unprocessed evidence and systems 
                 issues that impede utilization of DNA forensic technology 
                 to its fullest potential;

               ii)    Identify the best practices that enhance collection 
                 and timely processing of DNA evidence to meet the needs 
                 of the criminal justice system;

               iii)   Make recommendations for eliminating the current 
                 backlogs and preventing future backlogs of unprocessed 
                 evidence in state and local public laboratories;

               iv)    Evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the 
                 current organization of resources in the State of 
                 California, to determine what strategies and systems will 
                 most effectively serve the needs of California;

               v)     Recommend strategies for training and educational 
                 programs to address the shortages of trained personnel to 
                 meet the staffing needs of crime labs;

               vi)    Assess the impact of 'cold hits' upon local 
                 investigative, prosecution and defense resources; and,

               vii)   Report to the Legislature and the Governor regarding 
                 the legislative or administrative steps that must be 
                 taken to insure timely processing of evidence in 
                 California's criminal justice system.

             d)   The Legislature and the Governor should provide adequate 
               support to quickly respond to the needs identified by the 
               Attorney General.

           4)Prior Legislation  : AB 1079 (Richardson), Chapter 405, Statutes 
            of 200, established the CLRTF.  


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          California Public Defenders Association (Sponsor)


          Analysis Prepared by  :    Milena Nelson / PUB. S. / (916)