BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     AB 835


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          Date of Hearing:  April 28, 2015
          Counsel:               David Billingsley


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY


                                  Bill Quirk, Chair





          AB  
                       835 (Gipson) - As Amended  April 14, 2015




          SUMMARY:  Provides that, in addition to filing a criminal  
          complaint within the existing statute of limitations, if a  
          person flees the scene of an accident that results in a  
          vehicular manslaughter, as specified, a criminal complaint may  
          be filed within one year after the person is initially  
          identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of  
          the offense. 
          EXISTING LAW:  

          1)States that vehicular manslaughter is the unlawful killing of  
            a human being without malice while driving a vehicle in the  
            commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, and  
            with gross negligence or driving a vehicle in the commission  
            of a lawful act which might produce death, in an unlawful  
            manner, and with gross negligence.  (Pen. Code,  192, subd.  
            (c)(1).) 

          2)States that violation of vehicular manslaughter is punishable  
            by either imprisonment in the county jail for not more than  
            one year or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four  
            or six years.  (Pen. Code,  193, subd. (c), par. (1).)

          3)States that vehicular manslaughter also is the unlawful  








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            killing of a human being without malice while (i) driving a  
            vehicle in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to  
            a felony, but without gross negligence or (ii) driving a  
            vehicle in the commission of a lawful act which might produce  
            death, in an unlawful manner, but without gross negligence.   
            [Penal Code section 192, subd. (c), par. (2).]  States that  
            violation of this offense is punishable by imprisonment in the  
            county jail for not more than one year.  (Pen. Code,  193,  
            subd. (c), par. (2).)

          4)Requires that prosecution for an offense punishable by  
            imprisonment in the state prison or county jail pursuant to  
            realignment be commenced within three years after commission  
            of the offense, except as specified.  (Pen. Code,  801.)

          5)Requires that prosecution for a misdemeanor offense be  
            commenced within one year after commission of the offense,  
            except as specified.  (Pen. Code,  802, subd. (a).)

          6)Allows a criminal complaint to be filed within the standard  
            period, or one year after the person is initially identified  
            by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of the  
            offense, whichever is later, but in no case later than six  
            years after the commission of the offense, if a person flees  
            the scene of an accident that caused death or permanent,  
            serious injury (Pen. Code,  803, subd. (j).)



          7)States that the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident  
            resulting in injury to a person, other than himself or  
            herself, or in the death of a person shall immediately stop  
            the vehicle at the scene of the accident and provide  
            assistance and information. (Veh. Code,  20001, subd. (a).)



          8)Specifies that if the results in death or permanent, serious  
            injury, a person who violates subdivision shall be punished by  
            imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four  
            years, or in a county jail for not less than 90 days nor more  
            than one year, or by a fine of not less than one thousand  








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            dollars ($1,000) nor more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000),  
            or by both that imprisonment and fine. However, the court, in  
            the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record,  
            may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment. (Veh. Code,  
             20001, subd. (b)(2).)




          9)States that a person who flees the scene of the crime after  
            committing a violation of vehicular manslaughter while  
            intoxicated of, or gross vehicular manslaughter upon  
            conviction of any of those sections, in addition and  
            consecutive to the punishment prescribed, shall be punished by  
            an additional term of imprisonment of five years in the state  
            prison. This additional term shall not be imposed unless the  
            allegation is charged in the accusatory pleading and admitted  
            by the defendant or found to be true by the trier of fact. The  
            court shall not strike a finding that brings a person within  
            the provisions of this subdivision or an allegation made  
            pursuant to this subdivision. (Veh. Code,  20001, subd. (c).)
          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown

          COMMENTS:  

          1)Author's Statement:  According to the author, ""Currently, the  
            statute of limitation provides an incentive for vehicular  
            homicide suspects to flee the scene of serious traffic  
            accidents in order to avoid identification and possible  
            prosecution. Our laws should not encourage flight, and  
            discourage rendering aid.  
            


            "Assembly Bill (AB) 835 will ensure those who commit vehicular  
            homicide and flee the scene of the incident are held  
            accountable for their crime by tolling the statute of  
            limitations until the suspect is identified by law  
            enforcement."











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          2)Statute of Limitations:  Criminal statutes of limitations are  
            laws that limit the time during which a prosecution can be  
            commenced.  A prosecution is initiated by filing an indictment  
            or information, filing a complaint, arraigning a defendant  
            charged with a felony, or issuing an arrest or bench warrant.   
            (Pen. Code,  804.)  If prosecution is not commenced within  
            the applicable period of limitation, it is a complete defense  
            to the charge.  The statute of limitations is jurisdictional  
            and may be raised as a defense at any time before or after  
            judgment.  People v. McGee (1934) 1 Cal.2d 611, 613.  The  
            defense may be waived only under limited circumstances for the  
            benefit of the defendant. Cowan v. Superior Court (1996) 14  
            Cal.4th 367, 370. 



            Statutes of limitations have been in operation for over 350  
            years and are deeply rooted in the American legal system.   
            "There are several rationales underlying statutes of  
            limitations. First, they ensure that prosecutions are based  
            upon reasonably fresh evidence.  The idea is that over time,  
            memories fade, witnesses die or leave the area, and physical  
            evidence becomes more difficult to obtain, identify, or  
            preserve.  In short, the possibility of erroneous conviction  
            is minimized when prosecution is prompt.  Second, statutes of  
            limitations encourage law enforcement officials to investigate  
            suspected criminal activity in a timely fashion.  In addition,  
            it is thought that (statutes of limitations) may reduce the  
            possibility of blackmail based on threats to disclose  
            information to prosecutors or law enforcement officials.   
            Another rationale is that as time goes by, the likelihood  
            increases that an offender has reformed, making punishment  
            less necessary.  In addition, society's retributive impulse  
            may lessen over time, making punishment less desirable.   
            Finally, there is the thought that statutes of limitations  
            provide an overall sense of security and stability to human  
            affairs." (Lauren Kerns, Incorporating Tolling Provisions into  
            Sex Crimes Statutes of Limitations, 13 Temp. Pol. & Civ. Rts.  
            L. Rev. 325, 327 (2003) (internal quotations and citations  
            omitted).) 








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            In considering revisions to California's statutes of  
            limitations, the California Law Revision Commission identified  
            five factors to be considered by the Legislature in drafting a  
            limitations statute:  "(a) The staleness factor.  A person  
            accused of crime should be protected from having to face  
            charges based on possibly unreliable evidence and from losing  
            access to the evidentiary means to defend.  (b) The repose  
            factor.  This reflects society's lack of a desire to prosecute  
            for crimes committed in the distant past.  (c) The motivation  
            factor.  This aspect of the statute imposes a priority among  
            crimes for investigation and prosecution.  (d) The seriousness  
            factor.  The statute of limitations is a grant of amnesty to a  
            defendant; the more serious the crime, the less willing  
            society is to grant that amnesty.  (e) The concealment factor.  
             Detection of certain concealed crimes may be quite difficult  
            and may require long investigations to identify and prosecute  
            the perpetrators." (1 Witkin Cal. Crim. Law Defenses Section  
            234 (3rd ed. 2010), citing 17 Cal. Law Rev. Com. Reports,  
            pp.308-311.)





          3)The Proposed Legislation has Similar Language  to the Existing  
            Statute of Limitations for the Crime of Hit and Run with  
            Injury or Death,  but it Does Not Include Any Cap on Time:   
            This bill would allow the statute of limitations to be  
            extended for crimes of vehicular manslaughter where the  
            suspect left the scene of the accident.  The statute of  
            limitations for vehicular manslaughter is one year  
            (misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter), or three years (felony  
            vehicular manslaughter).  This bill would allow the statute of  
            limitations to be extended indefinitely beyond those time  
            periods, if a suspect has not been identified.  If a suspect  
            is identified at any point in the future, a criminal complaint  
            can be filed within one year of identification of the suspect.  








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             Under existing law, the statute of limitation for a hit and  
            run with injury or death, includes a provision which extends  
            the statute of limitations to allow the filing of a complaint  
            within one year of identification of a suspect. However, there  
            is a six year cap, beyond which charges cannot be filed. (Pen.  
            Code,  803(j).) The proposed legislation mirrors the language  
            extending the statute of limitations in hit and run with  
            injury or death, but does not include any cap.



          4)Argument in Support:  According to The Los Angeles County  
            Professional Peace Officers Association, "This bill would  
            authorize a criminal complaint to be brought against a person  
            who flees the scene of an accident for violation of specified  
            vehicular manslaughter crimes to be filed either one or 3  
            years after the commission of the offense. 
            


            "The additional time would aid law enforcement officers in  
            their investigations of these specified crimes, and seeks to  
            ensure justice is served and closure provided for the families  
            of the victims."


          


          5)Argument in Opposition:  According to The American Civil  
            Liberties Union of California, "AB 835 would effectively  
            eliminate the statute of limitations for charges under Penal  
            Code section 192(c)(1) or (2) in cases where a person flees  
            the scene of an accident. The bill would permit the  
            prosecution to pursue charges within one year of identifying a  
            suspect, without any outer-limit on when charges may be filed.  
            Practically speaking, this is effectively the same as no  
            statute of limitations, as the prosecution may pursue charges  
            decades after the events at issue. In contrast, Penal Code  
            section 803(j) currently provides that, in cases where a  
            person flees the scene of an accident causing death, the  
            prosecution may file charges within one year of identifying a  








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            suspect "but in no case later than six years after the  
            commission of the offense."
            


            "Creating two different statutes of limitations for these  
            offenses will create confusion. A prosecutor may choose to  
            charge the more severe offense of Penal Code section 192(c)  
            for the specific purpose of evading the six year statute of  
            limitations provided for the offense of fleeing the scene of  
            an accident causing death. People charged with this more  
            severe crime more than six years after the events may raise  
            legitimate due process and equal protection concerns." 





            "Moreover, statutes of limitations promote one of the core  
            principles of our justice system: that crimes are solved and  
            brought to trial quickly, to ensure that a person accused of a  
            crime faces reliable evidence and has a fair opportunity to  
            mount a defense. The United States Supreme Court stated that  
            statutes of limitations are the primary guarantee against  
            bringing overly stale criminal charges. (United States v.  
            Ewell (1966) 383 U.S. 116, 122.) People should not face  
            criminal charges based on evidence that may be unreliable or  
            after they have lost access to evidence to defend against the  
            charge. With time memory fades, witnesses become unavailable,  
            and physical evidence becomes unobtainable or contaminated. 





             Offenses that charged under Penal Code section 192(c) are  
            particularly likely to raise these concerns. These offenses do  
            not require intent but, rather, a finding of gross negligence.  
            Determining whether the accused person committed an act with  
            gross negligence requires a careful assessment of all of the  
            circumstances of the accident and many of the circumstances  
            leading up to the accident. A person facing charges of gross  








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            vehicular manslaughter decades after the event will have lost  
            the ability to identify and interview key witnesses and to  
            collect physical evidence that may be relevant to his or her  
            defense." 





            "For these reasons, we oppose AB 835 unless amended to provide  
            an outer-limit of six years for filing these charges."





          6)Prior Legislation:  

             a)   AB 184 (Gatto), Chapter 765, Statutes of 2013, provides  
               that, notwithstanding any other limitation of time  
               specified, if a person flees the scene of an accident that  
               has caused death or permanent, serious injury, charges may  
               be brought either one or 3 years after the completion of  
               the offense, as specified, or one year after the person is  
               initially identified as a suspect in the commission of the  
               offense, whichever is later, but in no case later than 6  
               years after the commission of the offense.

             b)   AB 2484 (Davis), of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session,  
               would have provided that notwithstanding any other  
               limitation of time, as specified, if a person flees the  
               scene of an accident, a criminal complaint for the crimes  
               described above may be filed either one or 3 years after  
               the commission of the offense, as specified, or one year  
               after the person is initially identified by law enforcement  
               as a suspect in the commission of that offense, whichever  
               is later.  The bill was never heard in the Senate Public  
               Safety Committee.


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:









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          Support

          California Association of Highway Patrolmen
          California District Attorneys Association
          Crime Victims United
          Fraternal Order of Police California State Lodge
          Long Beach Police Officers Association
          Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association
          Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association
          Santa Ana Police Officers Association

          Opposition
          
          American Civil Liberties Union of California  
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
          Legal Services for Prisoners with Children

          Analysis Prepared  
          by:              David Billingsley / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744