The Association of Deputy District Attorneys is sounding the alarm over a measure that was signed into law in California after being hidden in an omnibus health spending bill.

In a startling abuse of the legislative process, a budget clean-up bill has just been used to sneak in radical and never-debated changes in the criminal justice system. It allows a defendant suffering from a mental disorder to be granted pre-trial diversion and the charges later dismissed for any crime if a judge finds the disorder played a significant role in the crime and if a defendant has “substantially complied” with mental health treatment during the diversion period. In short, this new law allows diversion and the dismissal of charges for any crime, including those where a victim was killed or seriously injured.

This massive change in law was slipped into AB 1810, the “Omnibus Health Trailer Budget Bill” for 2018. The purpose of trailer bills is supposed to be to implement provisions in the budget bill, not to write substantive new policy. However, as columnist George Skelton explainedlast year, these trailer bills are “created in the dark without much legislative or public scrutiny” and “mostly used now by Democrats for slipping through touchy new policy.”

Under AB 1810, a defendant charged with any crime can get those charges dismissed if they convince a judge the mental disorder they suffer from played a “major” role in the charged crime; if a mental health expert says the symptoms motivating the criminal behavior would respond to treatment; and if the defendant undergoes “treatment” during a diversion period with no minimum time period and a maximum of two years. Incredibly, only the defense gets to submit a psychiatric report; the prosecution has no opportunity to rebut that report with their own report or have their own expert examine the defendant. Finally, the mental health treatment shall be deemed “satisfactory” and dismissal granted should a defendant “substantially comply” with the diversion conditions and commit no “significant” new crimes while in diversion, although what constitutes “substantial completion” or a “significant” crime is not defined in the bill.

Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) President Michele Hanisee was on the John & Ken show on KFI radio discussing a budget clean-up bill that was used to sneak in radical and never-debated changes in the criminal justice system

It takes little imagination to project how this measure will be abused to excuse a wide array of crimes (e.g. arson, DUI, stealing MAGA hats) under the banner of “mental health disorder”. The normally supportive San Diego Union Tribune Editorial Boad blasted the legislative stunt.

…A case can be made that a defendant’s mental illness should be considered by prosecutors and judges — it’s certainly relevant. Senate Bill 215, now before the Legislature, would have allowed this in defined, limited circumstances. But instead of vetoing AB 1810 and letting this debate proceed, Brown short-circuited it. He did so despite being warned by San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan that this is “the most irresponsible legislation our state has ever seen” and that it would “wreak havoc in our criminal justice system.”

The Los Angeles County Association of Deputy District Attorneys blasted the maneuvering that led to the new law as a “scandalous abuse of the legislative process.” But that doesn’t go far enough. What Brown and state lawmakers have done is an outrageous simultaneous display of arrogance and incompetence — one that seems certain to haunt the criminal justice reform movement. Get ready for a signature-gathering push that seeks to overturn AB 1810…

To pass into law, by stealth, the “most irresponsible” law ever placed on California’s books is, indeed, quite an achievement. Paired with the high speed train boondoggle, it is quite a legacy Governor Jerry Brown is leaving behind.


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