BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



          SENATE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
                             Senator Ricardo Lara, Chair
                            2015 - 2016  Regular  Session

          AB 2221 (Garcia) - Criminal procedure:  human trafficking  
          witnesses
          
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          |Version:  April 19, 2016        |Policy Vote:  PUB. S. 7 - 0     |
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          |Urgency:  No                    |Mandate:  No (see Staff         |
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          |Hearing Date:  August 1, 2016   |Consultant:  Jolie Onodera      |
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          This bill meets the criteria for referral to the Suspense File.


          Bill  
          Summary:  AB 2221 would require a minor who is a victim of human  
          trafficking to be provided with assistance from the local county  
          Victim Witness Assistance Center (VWAC), if the minor so  
          desires, prior to testifying as a witness in a case involving a  
          charge of human trafficking, as specified.


          Fiscal  
          Impact: 
            VWAC services  :  Potential increase in expenditures from the  
            Victim-Witness Assistance (VWA) Fund (Special Fund*), Victims  
            of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund (Federal Funds), or other state funds  
            (General Fund) for local agencies that operate VWACs and  
            accept VWA funds to provide "assistance" to minors. There are  
            currently 59 VWACs in the state, all of which receive funding  
            from the VWA Fund to provide assistance to victims. By  
            requiring VWACs to provide assistance to human trafficking  







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            victims, this measure could result in potentially significant  
            one-time and ongoing costs to meet the requirements of this  
            bill. In the absence of additional funding, the mandate to  
            provide assistance to these specific victims potentially  
            redirects funding for services that otherwise would be  
            provided to victims of other crimes, including domestic  
            violence and sexual assault. Although the receipt of state  
            funding by a local VWAC is permissive, in the absence of  
            clarifying language, the provisions of this bill may create a  
            reimbursable state mandate on local county VWACs (as a similar  
            mandate is not imposed on privately-run VWACs) to provide a  
            higher level of service.
            Cal OES  :  No anticipated impact, as no changes to the  
            administration of the local VWAC programs are required by the  
            bill.

          *Victim-Witness Assistance (VWA) Fund - staff notes the VWA Fund  
          is insolvent, with a projected FY 2016-17 year-end balance of  
          $49,000. In order to address the VWA Fund's operating shortfall,  
          one of the state's short-term solutions has been to shift costs  
          to other state funds such as the Restitution Fund.


          Background:  Existing law states that although the State has a fund for  
          needy victims of violent crimes, and compensation is available  
          for medical expenses, lost income or wages, and rehabilitation  
          costs, the application process may be difficult, complex, and  
          time-consuming, and victims may not be aware that the  
          compensation provisions exist. 
          Existing law provides that it is the intent of the Legislature  
          to provide services to meet the needs of both victims and  
          witnesses of crime through the funding of local comprehensive  
          centers for victim and witness assistance. (Penal Code   
          13835(f).)

          Under existing law, funds are appropriated from the  
          Victim-Witness Assistance (VWA) Fund and made available through  
          the Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to any public or  
          private nonprofit agency for the assistance of victims and  
          witnesses that meets all of the following requirements: 

                 It provides comprehensive services to victims and  
               witnesses of all types of crime. It is the intent of the  
               Legislature to make funds available only to programs that  








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               do not restrict services to victims and witnesses of a  
               particular type of crime or in which there is a suspect in  
               the case.
                 It is recognized by the board of supervisors as the  
               major provider of comprehensive services to victims and  
               witnesses in the county.
                 It is selected by the board of supervisors as the agency  
               to receive funds pursuant to this article.
                 It assists victims of crime in the preparation,  
               verification, and presentation of their claims to the  
               California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board  
               (Board) for indemnification, as specified.
                 It cooperates with the Board in verifying the data  
               required by law, as specified. (Penal Code  13835.2.)
           
          Assistance is available for victims of violent crimes often  
          through district attorneys' offices that operate Victim Witness  
          Assistance Programs. Trained and experienced victim advocates  
          provide crisis intervention counseling, information about the  
          criminal justice system, advocacy, assistance with filing for  
          victim compensation, and community referrals. Additional  
          assistance for witnesses include arranging transportation and  
          lodging for out of town witnesses, and notifying witnesses of  
          time and place of judgment and sentencing upon request. 


          There are 59 Victim Witness Assistance Centers - one in each  
          county and one more in the City of Los Angeles - that work  
          directly with the Board to assist victims.




          Proposed  
          Law:  This bill would require a minor who is a victim of human  
          trafficking to be provided with assistance from the local county  
          Victim Witness Assistance Center, if the minor so desires, prior  
          to testifying as a witness in a case involving a charge of human  
          trafficking under Penal Code  236.1.


          Related  
          Legislation:  AB 1276 (Santiago) 2016 would authorize, under  
          specified conditions, a minor 17 years of age or younger to  








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          testify by contemporaneous examination and cross examination in  
          another place and out of the presence of the judge, jury,  
          defendant(s), and attorneys if testimony will involve the  
          recitation of the facts of an alleged offense of human  
          trafficking. AB 1276 is pending on the Senate Floor.


          Staff  
          Comments:  By requiring a minor who is a victim of human  
          trafficking to be provided with assistance from the local VWAC  
          prior to testifying as a witness in a case involving a charge of  
          human trafficking, this bill could result in an increase in  
          services costs to local VWACs of an unknown, but potentially  
          significant amount. In the absence of a definition of  
          "assistance," the scope of services required to be provided to  
          the minor prior to testifying as a witness in a case is unknown,  
          and therefore, the costs to local VWACs are likewise also  
          unknown. 
          One local VWAC has indicated that due to the inability of staff  
          to respond to all crime victims, the agency "will provide  
          comprehensive services to all crime victims upon request and  
          provide outreach to those crime victims/witnesses who have  
          special needs." This bill specifies that a minor is to be  
          provided with assistance if the minor so desires, but does not  
          require a request from the minor for such assistance. It is  
          unclear whether the provisions of this bill require a VWAC to  
          actively provide outreach to ensure the requirements of the bill  
          are met. In the absence of additional funding for victims'  
          services, the mandate to provide assistance to minors who are  
          victims of human trafficking prior to testifying in a case  
          potentially redirects funding for services that otherwise could  
          be provided to victims of other crimes who are also in critical  
          need of services, including domestic violence and sexual  
          assault.


          Although the receipt of state VWA Funds by a local VWAC is  
          permissive, in the absence of clarifying language, the  
          provisions of this bill may create a reimbursable state mandate  
          on local county VWACs (as a similar mandate is not imposed on  
          privately-run VWACs) to provide a higher level of service.

          Recommended Amendment:  To clarify that counties are not  
          mandated to operate a VWAC, which could create a reimbursable  








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          state mandate, staff recommends the following amendment: 



          236.13.  (a)  Prior to testifying as a witness in a case involving  
          a charge of human trafficking under Section 236.1, a minor who  
          is a victim of the human trafficking shall be provided with  
          assistance from the local county Victim Witness Assistance  
          Center if the minor so desires.

           (b) Nothing in this section is intended to require a local  
          agency to operate a Victim Witness Assistance Center.


           










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