In the wake of tragic police stories around the country, California took a step in transparency and accountability. Governor Brown has mandated that law enforcement agencies develop a program by 2018 that would allow them to collect and report data on the people they stop. Data will include perceived race and ethnicity, and the cause for the stop.
Similar to other actions taken, Governor Brown cited the phenomenon of “jail and prison populations [exploding].” He also discussed the byzantine California Penal Code, which “[covers] every conceivable form of human misbehavior.” Since his day first day in office, he has been serious about criminal justice reform. He believes that this database will result in more justice and more fiscal savings.
Police are not allowed to stop individuals at whim. There must be probable cause for an investigatory stop. “Driving while black or brown” will not suffice. A reported stop that lacks probable cause will face scrutiny from law enforcement, attorneys, and judges. This is a step in the right direction. Far too often cases will be based off an illegal stop.
A separate 2016 law will require protocol to be established for the handling of body cameras worn by police officers. The law intends to ensure that recordings are not mishandled or damaged. Again, criminal litigation relies heavily on recorded evidence. A video may contradict a witness statement, or result in exculpatory evidence for the defendant.
Like stated in previous blog posts, California has a problem with over-incarceration but steps are being taken to address them. These laws will address issues that begin at the outset of a criminal case: the initial police stop and evidentiary support for an arrest. A person cannot be convicted, most of the time, if an arrest was unconstitutional.
If you, or someone that you care about, is arrested for a crime, it is important to seek the advice of experienced counsel. Laws are ever changing and complex. It is essential to consult with someone who may be familiar with new laws that could impact your case.