California Democrats have introduced legislation to shield a person from the consequences of crimes they commit in California, even violent ones, as long as the person reports the crimes to authorities.The language of the proposed statute appears to immunize a person from ANY crime so long as they are reporting a violation of a sex crime law. And it appears the Legislative Counsel went along with this, based on the bill language.
California Senate Bill 233, authored by Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and coauthored by State Assembly members Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), says: “A person who is reporting a crime of sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion, burglary, or another violent crime shall not be arrested for a crime …”
Sen. Wiener and the San Francisco Chronicle reported that this legislation is all about protecting victimized sex workers. However, the truth in what is being said and reported about this bill is one thing and what the actual text of the legislation states is an entirely different matter. The actual language of SB 233 would enact something completely different:
“California Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, will introduce legislation Monday that would prevent law enforcement from arresting and charging sex workers who come forward as victims or witnesses to serious crimes. The proposed law, SB233, would also prevent officers from using condoms as probable cause to arrest a sex worker in any situation.
“‘Right now, we know there are sex workers who are victimized or witness crimes and are scared to come forward because they think they are going to be arrested,’ Wiener said. ‘We want to create every incentive for sex workers to feel safe in reporting crimes.’”
However, here is the actual language, in the full text of Senate Bill 233:
“An act to add Section 647.3 to the Penal Code, relating to crime.
“LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
“SB 233, as introduced, Wiener. Immunity from arrest. (emphasis mine)
“Existing law criminalizes various aspects of sex work, including soliciting anyone to engage in, or engaging in, lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, loitering in a public place with the intent to commit prostitution, or maintaining a public nuisance. Existing law, the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act (CUCSA), also criminalizes various offenses relating to the possession, transportation, and sale of specified controlled substances.
“This bill would prohibit the arrest of a person for a misdemeanor violation of the CUCSA or other specified sex work crimes, if that person is reporting a crime of sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion, burglary, or another violent crime. The bill would also state that possession of condoms in any amount, in and of itself, is not probable cause for arrest for specified sex work crimes.
“Digest Key – Vote: MAJORITY Appropriation: NO Fiscal Committee: NO Local Program: NO
“THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
“SECTION 1. Section 647.3 is added to the Penal Code, to read:
“647.3. (a) A person who is reporting a crime of sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, robbery, assault, kidnapping, threats, blackmail, extortion, burglary, or another violent crime shall not be arrested for a crime, including a misdemeanor violation of the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act (Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code) or a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647 or of Section 372 or 653.22.
“(b) Possession of condoms in any amount shall not, in and of itself, be probable cause for arrest for a crime, including a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 647 or of Section 372 or 653.22.”
“As is typical, the legal drafting skills in the legislature are so poor that the end product rarely resembles what they claim they are trying to accomplish, leaving the courts to clean up the mess they made,” said Deputy District Attorney Michele Hanisee, President of the Association of Assistant District Attorneys. “A mess that could easily have been avoided by consulting with attorneys who actually work in the criminal justice system.”
The question is ‘is this what they really wanted?’ Was this drafting error, or is this another attempt to undermine the criminal justice system as is the case with Assembly Bill 109, and Propositions 47 and 57 – all claimed wholesome criminal justice reforms and intent, but the results were completely different.
With Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new Executive Order withdrawing California National Guard troops from the border with Mexico, at his press conference Monday, a member of the press asked the Governor if this order ignores documented human sex trafficking at border. Newsom pivoted from the question, referred to an article in the New Yorker, and moved on.
The intent of the bill may be to allow for sex crime whistleblowers however, the bill language is entirely different. And as one commenter on the Chronicle article addressed, “There’s a fine line between protecting victimized sex workers and creating an environment in which human trafficking can thrive.”