State Senator Holly Mitchell

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, may have authored a bill that could set a trend across the country and put more focus on officer-involved shootings.

On Tuesday, Dec. 29, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a Sen. Mitchell’s Senate Bill 227 (SB 227) that will no longer allow grand juries in cases involving police shootings of civilians, effective Jan. 1

California will no longer use grand juries in cases involving police shootings of civilians after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill Tuesday, Dec. 29, banning the secret deliberations.

“One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to understand why SB 227 makes sense,” Mitchell said in a statement, to the San Francisco Chronicle. “The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system.”

Mitchell created the legislation to combat a grand jury process that has fostered a mistrust in a system that is done through secret deliberations.

Under the SB 227, prosecutors in California must decide whether police officers should face criminal charges for killing someone in the line of duty. The bill is almost certain leave open the door to transparency in law enforcement agencies within the state.

Mitchell’s bill was created in response where grand juries were used in cases where police involved in killings civilians went without criminal charges in Missouri, Maryland, and New York.

In addition, the state of California wants to inform the public of several new laws or changes to existing law that, unless otherwise noted, take effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The following are summaries of some of the laws that go into effect.

  • Existing Ignition Interlock Device (IID) pilot project to July 1, 2017 for, Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties. The IID pilot project requires a person convicted of a DUI to install an IID for five months upon a first offense, 12 months for a second offense, 24 months for a third offense, and 36 months for a fourth or subsequent offense. The project was originally set to end on January 1, 2016.

  • Traffic Amnesty (SB 405, Hertzberg): Among other things, this law amends the criteria for a person to be eligible for the traffic citation amnesty program. The traffic amnesty program was approved through the 2015/16 Budget Act. A person is eligible for the traffic amnesty program if he or she has not made any payments after September 30, 2015, to a collection program for fines or bail already due. The law also indicates that payment of bail, fines, penalties, fees, or a civil assessment is not required in order for the court to remove the civil assessment of up to $300 against any defendant who fails, after notice and without good cause, to appear in court.

  • Earbuds or Headsets (SB 491, Transportation Committee): This law, among other things, makes it unlawful to wear a headset covering, earplugs in, or earphones covering, resting on, or inserted in, both ears, while operating a motor vehicle or a bicycle. This prohibition does not apply to persons operating authorized emergency vehicles, construction equipment and refuse or waste equipment while wearing a headset or safety earplugs.

  • Gun control legislation goes into effect in California Jan. 1 that will allow authorities to seize a person’s weapons for 21 days if a judge determines there is potential for violence.

  • California is one of 14 states that will see an increase in minimum wages. California, one of two states (the other Massachusetts) will go from $9 an hour to $10.

  • Vaccines (SB 277): The law goes into effect beginning New Year’s Day, but schools won’t begin vetting students for vaccination shots until July, just before the 2016-2017 school year. The bill requires full vaccination for most children to enroll in schools.

  • Privacy Laws (SB 178): The new senate bill requires law enforcement to obtain search warrants before they can gain seize your emails, text messages, internet search history and other digital data.


By Antonio R. Harvey

OBSERVER Staff Writer