BILL ANALYSIS Ó SENATE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY Senator Loni Hancock, Chair A 2011-2012 Regular Session B 6 4 8 AB 648 (Block) As Amended June 20, 2011 Hearing date: June 28, 2011 Penal Code MK:dl CLEMENCY HISTORY Source: The Office of the San Diego County District Attorney Prior Legislation: None Support: San Diego County Police Chiefs' and Sheriff's Association; County of San Diego; California Narcotic Officers' Association; California Police Chiefs Association; Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs; Long Beach Police Officers Association; Los Angeles County Peace Officers Association; Santa Ana Police Officers Association; California Fraternal Order of Police; San Bernardino Sheriff-Coroner; Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department; Victim Assistance Coordinating Council; Crime Victims United; California District Attorneys Association Opposition:Legal Services for Prisoners with Children Assembly Floor Vote: Ayes 68 - Noes 0 KEY ISSUE (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 2 SHOULD A PERSON APPLYING FOR THE COMMUTATION OF SENTENCE BE REQUIRED TO GIVE NOTICE TO THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY AND THE VICTIM 10 DAYS BEFORE THE GOVERNOR CAN GRANT THE COMMUTATION? PURPOSE The purpose of this bill is to require an application for commutation of sentence be served on district attorney 10 days before the Governor can act. The District Attorney must then give notice to the victim. Existing law provides that subject to application procedures provided by statute, the Governor, on conditions the Governor deems proper, may grant a reprieve, pardon, and commutation, after sentence except in cases of impeachment. The Governor shall report to the Legislature each reprieve, pardon, and commutation granted, stating the pertinent facts and the reason for granting it. The Governor may not grant a pardon or commutation to a person twice convicted of a felony except on recommendation of the Supreme Court, four judges concurring. (Article 5, § 8(a) of the California Constitution.) Existing law requires that at least 10 days before the Governor acts upon any application for a pardon, written notice of the intention to apply therefor, signed by the person applying, shall be upon the district attorney in the county where the conviction was had, and proof, by affidavit, of the service must be presented to the Governor. (Penal Code § 4804.) Existing law provides that the Board of Prison Terms (BPT) may report to the Governor from time to time, the names of all persons imprisoned in any state prison, who in its judgment ought to have a commutation of sentence, or be pardoned or set at liberty on account of good conduct, or unusual term of sentence, or any other cause, including evidence of intimate partner battering and its effects. (Penal Code § 4801(a).) (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 3 Existing law states that in the case of a person twice convicted of a felony, the application for pardon or commutation of sentence shall be made directly to the Governor, who shall transmit all papers and documents relied upon in support of and in opposition to the application to the BPT. (Penal Code § 4802.) Existing law provides that when an application is made to the Governor for pardon or commutation of sentence, or when an application is forwarded to the BPT, he or she may require the judge of the court before which the conviction was had, or the district attorney by whom the action was prosecuted, to furnish him or it, without delay, with a summarized statement of the facts proved on the trial, and of any other facts having reference to the propriety of granting or refusing said application, together with his recommendations for or against his granting of the same and his reason for such recommendation. (Penal Code § 4803.) This bill requires that at least 10 days before the Governor acts upon any application for a commutation of sentence, written notice of the intention to apply therefor, signed by the person applying, shall be upon the district attorney in the county where the conviction was had, and proof, by affidavit, of the service shall be presented to the Governor. This bill provides that the district attorney may submit a written recommendation to the Governor for or against commutation of sentence. This bill requires the district attorney to notify the victim or victims of the crime or crimes related to the application and the victim's families who may also submit a recommendation to the Governor for or against commutation of sentence. This bill recasts existing provision of law that require the Governor, at the beginning of each Legislative Session to report to the Legislature each case of reprieve, pardon, or (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 4 commutation, stating the name of the person convicted, the crime of which the person was convicted, the sentence and its date, and the date of the reprieve, pardon or commutation and the reason for granting the same, and makes these reports available to the public. RECEIVERSHIP/OVERCROWDING CRISIS AGGRAVATION For the last several years, severe overcrowding in California's prisons has been the focus of evolving and expensive litigation. As these cases have progressed, prison conditions have continued to be assailed, and the scrutiny of the federal courts over California's prisons has intensified. On June 30, 2005, in a class action lawsuit filed four years earlier, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California established a Receivership to take control of the delivery of medical services to all California state prisoners confined by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("CDCR"). In December of 2006, plaintiffs in two federal lawsuits against CDCR sought a court-ordered limit on the prison population pursuant to the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act. On January 12, 2010, a three-judge federal panel issued an order requiring California to reduce its inmate population to 137.5 percent of design capacity -- a reduction at that time of roughly 40,000 inmates -- within two years. The court stayed implementation of its ruling pending the state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. On May 23, 2011, the United States Supreme Court upheld the decision of the three-judge panel in its entirety, giving California two years from the date of its ruling to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity, subject to the right of the state to seek modifications in appropriate circumstances.
In response to the unresolved prison capacity crisis, in early (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 5 2007 the Senate Committee on Public Safety began holding legislative proposals which could further exacerbate prison overcrowding through new or expanded felony prosecutions. This bill does not appear to aggravate the prison overcrowding crisis described above. COMMENTS 1. Need for This Bill According to the author: The California Constitution grants the Governor broad authority to grant reprieves, pardons, or commutations subject to statutory procedures. This long-standing authority to perform acts of clemency is a constitutional prerogative that provides important checks and balances. However, current statutory law governing procedures does not provide for notice to district attorneys or victims or an opportunity to be heard during the consideration of an application for commutation. AB 648 would remedy that omission by requiring the applicant of a pardon or commutation request to notify the district attorney of the county where the conviction occurred 30 days before the Governor acts. The district attorney would then notify the victim and their family. Both parties would have an opportunity to submit a written recommendation for or against the commutation request to the Governor. Under current law district attorneys are notified of a pardon request by the applicant 10 days prior to a decision. The measure also strengthens transparency and (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 6 oversight of the process by requiring the Governor to submit a report to the Legislature each year in writing on the pardon, reprieve and commutation requests received that were granted. AB 648 also requires inclusion of the application request of those granted. The report and applications will be available to the public as well. (More) 2. Notice of an Application for Pardon This bill requires written notice of an intent to apply for a pardon to be served on the county district attorney at least 10 days before the Governor acts upon the application for commutation. The district attorney may submit a written recommendation to the Governor either for or against the commutation and shall also notify the victim so that he or she may submit a recommendation to the Governor. The San Diego County District Attorney the sponsor of this bill notes: We want to be very clear that this legislation is not, in any way, attacking the Governor's power to grant pardons, reprieves or commutations. We simply want to change the process required by the applicant. Assembly Bill 648 will provide the District Attorney of jurisdiction 10 days to respond to the Governor's intended commutation. The notice is by the person applying to have his or her sentence commuted and must occur whether or not the Governor intends to grant the commutation sought. 3. Changes to the Report on Commutations and Pardons This bill also makes changes to the report that must be filed with the Legislature by the Governor every session on any reprieve, pardon or commutation granted by the Governor. This bill clarifies that the report shall be in writing and that it should include each application that was granted for each case of reprieve, pardon or commutation by the Governor or his or her predecessor during the preceding session. *************** (More) AB 648 (Block) Page 8