BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                 AB 239
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         AB 239 (Ammiano)
         As Amended  August 30, 2011
         Majority vote
         |ASSEMBLY:  |79-0 |(May 31, 2011)  |SENATE: |38-0 |(September 7,  |
         |           |     |                |        |     |2011)          |
          Original Committee Reference:    PUB. S.  

          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. 

          The Senate amendments  remove the requirement that the office of 
         the President pro Tempore of the Senate sit on the task force, 
         and instead requires a representative from the Senate Committee 
         on Rules and specify that data shall be collected to determine 
         the root causes of laboratory errors.

          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 


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           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 
              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 


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           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.  

         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.  

           AS PASSED BY THE ASSEMBLY  , this bill required 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)Provided 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; 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 


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              equitable manner.  

         2)Stated 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. 
         FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Senate Appropriations Committee:

                            Fiscal Impact (in thousands)

          Major Provisions         2011-12      2012-13       2013-14     Fund
         DOJ to reconvene CLRTF $34        $68         $0        General

         CLRTF member           Potential state-reimbursable costs 
         participation          local agency participants

         Supplemental report    Substantial future cost pressure 
                                oversight body convened

          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, Section 1106(c)).  In November 2009, the CLRTF 
         issued an initial report that called for the creation of a state 


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         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 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 analysis for a full discussion of 
         this bill.

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

         FN: 0002475