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Calif. Laws Target Career Criminals, Sex Offenders

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — California has targeted career criminals, gang members and sex offenders with lengthy prison terms under laws and initiatives dating to the mid-1990s. In recent years, concerns over prison crowding and budget deficits have taken precedence.

–1994: California enacts “three strikes” law requiring 25 years to life in prison for third-time offenders. The law approved first by the Legislature, then by voters, also doubles felony sentences for second-strikers, those with a previous serious or violent felony conviction.

–1994: California enacts a “one-strike” law for aggravated cases of sexual assault. The law permits sentences of 15 years to life or 25 years to life for child molesters or rapists who have multiple victims, kidnap, bind or cause great bodily injury during their crimes.

–1997: California enacts “10-20-Life,” one of the nation’s toughest gun laws. The law imposes mandatory sentences of 10 years for using a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and 25 years to life for shooting someone while committing a violent crime.

–2000: Voters approve Proposition 21, the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act. It increases penalties for gang activities and lets prosecutors decide to try juveniles as young as 14 in adult court for murder, sexual assault, arson, robbery and gang-related crimes without first arguing the case in front of a juvenile judge. The case must be filed in adult court if the youth is charged with aggravated sexual assault or capital murder. It increases penalties for home invasion robberies, carjackings, witness intimidation and drive-by shootings.

–2000: Voters approve Proposition 36, requiring treatment instead of incarceration for nonviolent first- and second-time drug offenders. At its height, the program kept about 50,000 offenders a year from going to prisons or jails, making it one of the nation’s largest drug-offender diversion programs.

–2006: Voters approve Jessica’s Law, and the Legislature approves two related bills, giving California some of the nation’s toughest laws for released sex offenders. The measures increase penalties for offenses ranging from possession of child pornography to using the Internet to lure minors for sexual purposes. Jessica’s Law also requires many sex offenders to wear satellite tracked monitoring devices and prohibits them from living within 2,000 feet of a park or school.

–2007: The state Senate Public Safety Committee adopts a formal policy against approving bills that would add to prison crowding through new or expanded felony prosecutions.

– 2008: Voters approve Marsy’s Law, increasing crime victims’ rights and extending the period between parole hearings, among other provisions. Previously, inmates serving life sentences were entitled to a hearing every one to five years. Marsy’s Law permits hearings every three- to 15 years, although the provision is being challenged in court.

–2009: California enacts a law increasing early release credits for inmates and ending supervision for parolees convicted of less serious crimes. Both measures are designed to ease prison crowding and the budget deficit. The Assembly rejects creating an independent commission to review California’s criminal sentences, despite support from Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Senate.

–2010: California enacts Chelsea’s Law, named after Chelsea King, a 17-year-old who was raped and murdered in a San Diego County park by a convicted child molester. It allows life without parole sentences for adults, including first-time offenders, who kidnap, drug, bind, torture or use a weapon while committing a sex crime against a minor. It increases other penalties for child molesters, including requiring lifetime parole with GPS tracking for people convicted of forcible sex crimes against children under 14.

–2011: Lawmakers approve Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to transfer responsibility for lower-risk felons and parolees to local governments. The change is part of his proposal to realign certain state and local government responsibilities as one way to reduce California’s budget deficit. However, the switch will not take place unless local governments get increased funding, and Brown has been unable to place tax extensions before voters to provide the money.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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