California activist politician introduces bill to reclassify strong-armed robbery from felony to a misdemeanor

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The following article contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

BERKELEY, CA- You really have to wonder whose side some Democrat legislators are on. The latest example comes courtesy of (where else) California, where a proposal has been introduced that would make strong-arm robbery a misdemeanor.

SB-82, proposed by a woman named Nancy Skinner, a state senator who represents the East San Francisco Bay area and received a master’s degree from UC Berkeley (shocker), is to say the least, a beauty.

Skinner is apparently an “environmental activist” as well as apparently being a professional politician. This proposed law is so bizarre as to be almost funny, if it wasn’t so dangerous.

Skinner, using the strangely named “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” as a predicate is proposing the expansion of that law to include strong-armed robbery.

That act, approved by electors in November 2014 as a ballot measure required the theft of money or property to be considered petty theft, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in a county jail, a fine of $1,000 or both, as long as the value of the property taken didn’t exceed $950.

SB-82 would expand that as follows:

This bill would define the crime of petty theft in the first degree as taking the property from the person of another or from a commercial establishment by means of force or fear [emphasis added] without the use of a deadly weapon or great bodily injury. This bill would define the crime of petty theft in the 2nd degree as all other petty theft…”

Think about this for one second. An 80-year-old woman, who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet is walking down the street in downtown San Francisco. A six foot tall, 250 pound man walks up to her, knocks her to the ground and steals her pocketbook. Currently, that would be a felony.

Under the new proposal, it would be a misdemeanor.

For example, say in falling down the woman breaks her wrist. Under the definition of “great bodily injury,” it would still be a misdemeanor. Under California’s definition of great bodily injury, it would have to be:

“Physical injury suffered by the victim of a violent crime that causes a substantial risk of death, extended loss or impairment of a body part or function, or permanent disfigurement.”

Clearly under this definition, despite the fact that grandma suffered a broken wrist, Skinner apparently feels that is worthy of only a misdemeanor charge.

Under Skinner’s proposal, that man would be subject to the same penalty as defined in the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine or both. That’s it. If someone can explain how such a proposal equates to a “safe neighborhood and school,” we’re all ears.

Oh, but it gets worse. This law would be retroactive! That’s right, under Skinner’s proposal:

The bill would provide a means of vacating the sentence of, and resentencing, a currently incarcerated defendant who had been convicted for robbery, or whose sentence includes an enhancement based on one or more convictions for robbery and who would not be convicted of robbery based on the changes made in this bill.”

So, if someone was sentenced to 5-10 years in jail for going into a store, stealing an iPhone and then assaulting a security guard who intervened, punching him several times in the face in order to get away with the phone, they would ostensibly be eligible to have their sentence restructured. Sounds fair, right?

The bill would go even further, however in that it also provides for vacating the sentencing of, and resentencing of a person who had previously served a term of imprisonment for robbery, and would have the robbery conviction vacated based on the proposed changes in this bill.

As far as Skinner, the only possible answer is she ingested too much second-hand marijuana smoke during her formative years in Beserkely (misspelling intended). Her claim to fame is as a “social justice advocate” (that explains this bill), and an “energy and climate change trailblazer.” Oh, and she “introduced the nation’s first Styrofoam ban.” Important stuff like that.

Why is it that Democrats, want to go light on criminals at the same time they are trying to defund the police and basically take away the right of people to keep and bear arms to protect themselves? What is the possible end game for this? Other than of course causing anarchy in order to give Democrats even more control.

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Of course, California isn’t the only state where lunacy seems to be the rule of the day. Last November, voters in Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs. For more on that, we invite you to:

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PORTLAND, OR – Carrying small amounts of hard drugs will soon be punishable by what compares to a traffic ticket in the state of Oregon. 

Voters decided Tuesday night to pass legislature decriminalizing drug possession and expanding treatment options for drug abusers and addicts. 

Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that more than 58% of voters approved the ballot measure. 

The law change will go into effect on February 1, and is the first of its kind in the United States. 

One of the petitioners who filed the measure, Haven Wheelock, told the news outlet: 

“It takes a lot of courage to try something new, and I’m really proud of our state. I’m excited to be a model for other places to show that we don’t have to harm people for being sick.” 

Under the adjusted law, possession of small amounts of drugs including heroin, methamphetamines and cocaine will now classify as a civil violation and could come with a $100 fine. 

OPB reports that the if an offender agrees to undergo a health assessment, they may be able to skip the fine. 

The unanswered question is if and how the legislation would apply to minors caught possessing drugs. 

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton said: 

“The biggest question is what to do for teenagers who are using these highly addictive street drugs who choose not to engage in treatment?” 

Local defense attorney James O’Rourke agreed, saying it is a “bad idea” to decriminalize for children: 

“I think it sends a really bad message to them, and influences their perception of the risks, at a time when it’s the most dangerous drugs have ever been.” 

Currently, OPB reports that 26 of 36 counties in Oregon already have drug court programs. 

Opponents of the ballot measure argue that offenders convicted of possession already have access to jail alternatives. They also argue that the state has already been offering jail alternatives to most offenders who are convicted of drug possession. 

The Oregon District Attorney’s Association wrote a statement about the law change, saying: 

“Sadly, many people only confront their substance use disorder because of a contact with law enforcement which often ends in diversion and treatment. This measure will tie the hands of law enforcement and prosecutors everywhere and lead to disastrous results for our communities.” 

The statement goes on to say:

“Decriminalization will lead to an increase in acceptability of dangerous drugs, normalizing hazardous experimentation for our youth and increasing accessibility, surging supply and lowering costs of dangerous street drugs.”

The newly passed legislation could reportedly also allow more money for needle exchanges, harm reduction efforts and additional addiction treatment. 

In a statement released Wednesday, New York’s Drug Policy Alliance Director Kassandra Frederique said that she hopes other states will mimic Oregon. 

“This win represents a substantial shift in public perception and support in favor of treating drug use as a matter of public health, best met with access to treatment and other health services, rather than criminalization.” 

She goes on to say: 

“Measure 110 is arguably the biggest blow to the war on drugs to date.” 

Despite being based on the opposite coast, The Drug Policy Alliance spent about $3.5 million to gather signatures to get the measure on the ballot. 

On top of that, Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife contributed another $500,000. 

The ballot measure said that one in eleven Oregonians is currently addicted to drugs. 

The Oregon Criminal Justice Commission reports that the state already has some of the highest substance abuse rates in the country, before Tuesday night’s vote to decriminalize. 

According to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission, the state already had some of the highest substance abuse rates in the country prior to Measure 110 passing. 

The commission anticipated drug possession convictions to drop by 90% when the law change goes into effect. 

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