BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 239
                                                                  Page  1


          ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
          AB 239 (Ammiano)
          As Amended  April 27, 2011
          Majority vote 

           PUBLIC SAFETY       7-0         APPROPRIATIONS      17-0        
           
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 
          |Ayes:|Ammiano, Knight, Cedillo, |Ayes:|Fuentes, Harkey,          |
          |     |Hagman, Hill, Mitchell,   |     |Blumenfield, Bradford,    |
          |     |Skinner                   |     |Charles Calderon, Campos, |
          |     |                          |     |Davis, Donnelly, Gatto,   |
          |     |                          |     |Hall, Hill, Lara,         |
          |     |                          |     |Mitchell, Nielsen, Norby, |
          |     |                          |     |Solorio, Wagner           |
           ----------------------------------------------------------------- 

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


          1)Provides that the oversight body shall perform the following 
            tasks:

             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 








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               disclosure and discovery of crime laboratory documents; 
               and, 

             f)   Make recommendations to the Legislature and local 
               governmental entities regarding the allocation of resources 
               to crime laboratories throughout the state to ensure that 
               taxpayers' funds are maximized and distributed in a more 
               equitable manner.  

          2)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, comprised 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.  

          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:

             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 








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               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 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.  









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          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.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations 
          Committee, one-time General Fund costs in the range of $100,000 
          to DOJ to administer the task force - temporary staffing, 
          operating expenses and equipment and travel costs.  Minor 
          absorbable costs to various state departments who would 
          participate on the task force.   

           COMMENTS  :  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 








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          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 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 appropriately."

          Please see the policy committee for a full discussion of this 
          bill.
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Milena Nelson / PUB. S. / (916) 
          319-3744 


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