BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 924
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          Date of Hearing:   April 23, 2013
          Counsel:        Gabriel Caswell


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                    AB 924 (Bigelow) - As Amended:  March 21, 2013
           

          SUMMARY  :  Imposes additional penalties for theft or excessive  
          takings of specified livestock.  Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Specifies a fine of up to $5,000 for grand theft involving  
            livestock and earmarks those funds to the Bureau of Livestock  
            Identification for the purpose of investigating theft of  
            livestock.

          2)Imposes a mandatory minimum of 30 days of incarceration as a  
            condition of probation for a second or subsequent offense of  
            grand theft of livestock. Provides a limited exception to this  
            requirement in unusual circumstances where the interests of  
            justice would best be served by granting probation or  
            suspending the imposition or execution of sentence without  
            requiring imprisonment in a county jail, in which case the  
            court shall specify on the record and shall enter on the  
            minutes the circumstances indicating that the interests of  
            justice would best be served by the disposition.

          3)Lowers the threshold for imposition of additional consecutive  
            sentence enhancements for excessive takings as follows:

             a)   Lowers the threshold value of damage from $65,000 to  
               $15,000 for the imposition of an additional one year  
               consecutive sentence enhancement when a person takes,  
               damages, or destroys any specified livestock animal. 

             b)   Lowers the threshold value of damage from $200,000 to  
               $50,000 for the imposition of an additional two year  
               consecutive sentence enhancement when a person takes,  
               damages, or destroys any specified livestock animal. 

           EXISTING LAW  :  

          1)Defines "grand theft" as any theft where the money, labor, or  








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            real or personal property taken or when the property is taken  
            from the person of another is of a value exceeding $950.   
            [Penal Code Sections 487(a) and 487(c).]

          2)Provides that grand theft is committed when the money, labor,  
            or real or personal property taken is of a value in excess of  
            $950, except as specified.  [Penal Code Section 487(a).]

          3)Provides that notwithstanding the value of the property taken,  
            grand theft is committed in any of the following cases [Penal  
            Code Section 487(b)]:

             a)   When domestic fowls, avocados, or other farm crops are  
               taken of a value exceeding $250;

             b)   When fish or other aquacultural products are taken from  
               a commercial or research operation that is producing that  
               product of a value exceeding $250;

             c)   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;

             d)   When the property is taken from the person of another;  
               or,

             e)   When the property taken is, among other things, an  
               automobile, horse or firearm. Provides that if the grand  
               theft involves the theft of a firearm, it is punishable by  
               imprisonment in state prison for 16 months, 2 or 3 years.   
               (Penal Code Section 489.)

          4)Provides for "excessive taking" which is the taking, damaging,  
            or destruction of property when any person takes, damages, or  
            destroys any property in the commission or attempted  
            commission of a felony, with the intent to cause that taking,  
            damage, or destruction, the court shall impose an additional  
            term as follows:  (Penal Code Section 12022.6.)

             a)   If the loss exceeds sixty-five thousand dollars  
               ($65,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the  
               punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of  
               which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an  
               additional term of one year.









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             b)   If the loss exceeds two hundred thousand dollars  
               ($200,000), the court, in addition and consecutive to the  
               punishment prescribed for the felony or attempted felony of  
               which the defendant has been convicted, shall impose an  
               additional term of two years.

             c)   If the loss exceeds one million three hundred thousand  
               dollars ($1,300,000), the court, in addition and  
               consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or  
               attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted,  
               shall impose an additional term of three years.

             d)   If the loss exceeds three million two hundred thousand  
               dollars ($3,200,000), the court, in addition and  
               consecutive to the punishment prescribed for the felony or  
               attempted felony of which the defendant has been convicted,  
               shall impose an additional term of four years.

          5)Specifies that in any accusatory pleading involving multiple  
            charges of taking, damage, or destruction, the additional  
            terms provided in this section may be imposed if the aggregate  
            losses to the victims from all felonies exceed the amounts  
            specified in this section and arise from a common scheme or  
            plan.  The additional terms provided in this section shall not  
            be imposed unless the facts of the taking, damage, or  
            destruction in excess of the amounts provided in this section  
            are charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted or found  
            to be true by the trier of fact.  [Penal Code Section  
            12022.6(b)-(c).]  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "The financial  
            loss from animal theft can impact a family ranching operation  
            tremendously and can mean the difference in ending up in the  
            red or in the black on any given year. There has been a 60%  
            increase in the value of beef cattle over the last few years,  
            and as a result we have also seen an increase in theft. In  
            2012, the Bureau of Livestock Identification reported that  
            1,110 head of cattle were stolen a value of nearly $1 million.  
            AB 924 would give prosecutors the tools they need to  
            effectively administer the law and appropriately convict  
            persons found guilty of livestock theft. "








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           2)Background  :  According to the background provided by the  
            author, "Existing law, particularly with the effects of  
            realignment, is not adequate to properly deter livestock theft  
            and lacks specific provisions for prosecutors to use at their  
            discretion to enhance penalties. With the implementation of  
            Realignment, too many offenders including repeat offenders are  
            being convicted but receive no jail time at all. Instead,  
            almost all receive probation or nothing at all. The increasing  
            value of livestock has resulted in an exponential increase in  
            theft that has caused severe economic damage to the livelihood  
            of many ranchers throughout California. Livestock theft  
            negatively impacts a ranchers' bottom line and their ability  
            to care for their family and business."

           3)Specifies of a $5,000 Fine for Grand Theft of Livestock and  
            Earmarks the Proceeds  :  This bill seeks to specify a criminal  
            fine of no more than $5,000 for grand theft of specified  
            livestock.  This up to $5,000 fine is further earmarked to the  
            Bureau of Livestock Identification for the purpose of  
            investigating theft of livestock.  The specification of this  
            fine takes funds from any default fine which would have been  
            imposed on offenders convicted of grand theft of livestock  
            from the general fund of the State of California.   
           
           4)Mandatory Minimum Sentence for Probation  :  This bill imposes a  
            mandatory period of incarceration of 30-days in the county  
            jail if a court imposes probation upon a person convicted of a  
            second or subsequent offense of grand theft of livestock.  By  
            making the imposition of the 30-day sentence mandatory the  
            bill will exacerbate already overcrowded county jails and  
            removes aspects of the decision from the sentencing court.   
            Judges are often in a better position to make these decisions  
            other than the Legislature because they are experienced in the  
            handling of criminal matter, and they have the most firm grasp  
            of the facts and circumstances of any particular case.  This  
            bill limits this discretion with a requirement of unusual  
            circumstances where the interests of justice would best be  
            served by granting probation or suspending the imposition or  
            execution of sentence without requiring imprisonment in a  
            county jail.  It further requires that the judge specify on  
            the record and enter on the minutes the circumstances  
            indicating that the interests of justice would best be served  
            by the disposition.  
           








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           5)Increases to the Threshold for Excessive Takings were Recently  
            Increased in 2007  :  This bill lowers the threshold for  
            excessive taking, damaging, or destruction of property when  
            that property is livestock.  The default threshold for the  
            imposition of an additional sentence of one year imprisonment  
            is $65,000.  The default threshold of an imposition of an  
            additional two years imprisonment is $200,000.  
             
             This bill would lower those thresholds to extremely low levels  
            for the excessive taking, damaging, or destruction of  
            livestock.  For an imposition of an additional, consecutive  
            year of imprisonment the perpetrator need only damage or take  
            $15,000 in property.  For imposition of an additional two  
            years consecutive imprisonment, the perpetrator need only  
            damage or take $50,000 in property.  

            As a matter of perspective, the State of California recently  
            increased the threshold values to trigger imposition of these  
            penalties for all other types of property.  Prior to 2007 the  
            taking or damage had to be $50,000 for a one year enhancement  
            and $100,000 for a two year enhancement.  

            This bill takes the levels for livestock drastically below the  
            levels prior to the increase in the threshold in 2007.  

           6)Potential for Jail Overcrowding  :  According to a recent report  
            by the Public Policy Institute of California titled Capacity  
            Challenges in California's Jails, "California's county jails  
            are facing increasing adult daily populations (ADP).  Many  
            counties are facing capacity constraints on their population.   
            Prior to realignment, 17 counties were operating under court  
            orders limiting the number of inmates in their jails.   In  
            all, 13 counties including some of the biggest (Los Angeles,  
            Orange, San Diego, and Sacramento) had average daily  
            populations that were larger than the number of beds their  
            jails were rated for.  This bill drastically lowers the  
            threshold for taking offenses involving livestock and imposes  
            a mandatory minimum sentence for grand theft of livestock with  
            a prior, thereby exacerbating the jail overcrowding problem in  
            California."      
           
           7)Argument in Support  :  According to the California Cattlemen's  
            Association  "Simply put, AB 924 provides new and appropriate  
            penalty enhancements for prosecutors to use at their  
            discretion to ensure that the proper punishment can be  








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            provided for repeat offenders and those convicted of felony  
            grand theft of livestock that have caused irreparable economic  
            damage to livelihoods of our state's family farmers and  
            ranchers. 

            "The financial loss from animal theft can impact a family  
            farming or ranching operation tremendously and can mean the  
            difference of ending up in the red or black on any given year.  
            The increasing value of livestock has unfortunately led to an  
            exponential increase in the rates and severity of livestock  
            theft. In some recent cases, an entire semitrailer load of  
            cattle were stolen equating to a nearly $40,000 loss to the  
            rancher. In many of these cases, those convicted of livestock  
            grand theft receive little to no punishment even if they have  
            already been convicted of livestock theft in the past. 

            "AB 924 respects the ongoing efforts of the state to address  
            prison overcrowding by providing the flexibility for local  
            district attorneys, in coordination with their constituents  
            and the need of their local jurisdictions, to apply the new  
            penalty enhancements as deemed appropriate. For those who have  
            been convicted of felony grand theft of livestock more than  
            once, AB 924 only denies probation for a period of 30 days or  
            less. While this may seem insignificant, it sends a strong  
            message to prior offenders that a new conviction will result  
            in some jail time. 

            "AB 924 also creates a new $5,000 fine that can be imposed on  
            a convicted offender for the specific purpose of assisting  
            coordination efforts between the California Department of Food  
            and Agriculture's Bureau of Livestock Identification and local  
            law enforcement to identify potential suspects."

           8)Argument in Opposition  :  According to the  California Attorneys  
            for Criminal Justice  , "California Attorneys for Criminal  
            Justice (CACJ), a statewide association of criminal defense  
            attorneys, opposes Assembly Bill 924 (Bigelow).  This  
            legislation seeks to deter livestock theft by creating methods  
            to punish repeat offenders and those found guilty of high  
            value theft.  
             
             "Existing law establishes that theft of certain livestock is  
            punishable by imprisonment in county jail not to exceed one  
            year pursuant to 1170(h). This bill would create an additional  
            fine of $5,000 and continues the option of charging a felony  








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            or misdemeanor for the theft of livestock. For the second or  
            subsequent convictions, the bill would require 30 days in  
            county jail as a condition of granting probation. 

            "Furthermore, the bill lowers the threshold for eligibility of  
            an enhancement from a loss of $65,000 to a $15,000 loss for an  
            additional year of incarceration. For an additional two years  
            of incarceration, the limit has been lowered even further,  
            from $200,000 to $50,000. This bill unnecessarily sends people  
            back to county jail where our state's goal is to reduce the  
            number of persons unnecessarily sent to jail."

           9)Prior Legislation  :  AB 1705 (Niello), Chapter 420, Statutes of  
            2007, increased the threshold for takings offenses.   
           
          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          Agricultural Council of California 
          California Cattlemen's Association
          California Chamber of Commerce
          California Farm Bureau Federation
          California Grain and Seed Association
          California Poultry Federation
          Pacific Egg and Poultry Association
          Western United Dairyman


           Opposition 
           
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice 
          

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Gabriel Caswell / PUB. S. / (916)  
          319-3744