Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Calls on Congress to Reauthorize Violence Against Women Act

January 11, 2012
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, joined by 53 other attorneys general, signed a letter calling on the U.S. Congress to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and ensure the sustainability of vital programs designed to keep women and families safe from violence and abuse.

“We’ve made tremendous strides in how we deal with violence against women – from prosecuting violent offenders to breaking the cycles of crime and supporting and empowering victims,” said Attorney General Harris. “But our work is not done and the Violence Against Women Act, and ongoing support, is critical to this effort.”

In a letter sent to members of Congress, the attorneys general note that progress has been made since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. Domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking – once considered private matters to be dealt with behind closed doors – have been brought out of the darkness.

But, while annual rates have dropped more than 50 percent, domestic violence remains a serious issue. Every day in the United States, three women are killed by abusive husbands and partners. In California, there were 166,361 domestic violence calls in 2010, including more than 65,000 that involved a weapon.

In urging Congress to reauthorize VAWA for the first time since 2006, the attorneys general cited the need to maintain services for victims and families on the local, state, and federal levels. Reauthorization would allow existing programs to continue uninterrupted, and provide for the development of new initiatives to address key areas of concern. These initiatives include:

-Addressing the high rates of domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault among women, ages 16-24 by combating tolerant youth attitudes toward violence.
-Improving the response to sexual assault with best practices, training, and communication tools for law enforcement, as well as healthcare and legal professionals.
-Preventing domestic violence homicides through enhanced training for law enforcement, advocates and others who interact with those at risk. A growing number of experts agree that these homicides are predictable – and therefore preventable – if we know the warning signs.

The letter from the attorneys general concludes: “We know a great deal more about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking than we did 17 years ago. Reauthorizing VAWA will allow us to build on those lessons and continue to make progress and save lives.”

A copy of the letter is attached to the online version of this release at www.oag.ca.gov

PDF icon Letter422.29 KB

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Sends Letters Regarding Medical Marijuana Law in California

December 21, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today sent letters regarding medical marijuana law in California. The letters are attached.

PDF icon Letter 1230.63 KB
PDF icon Letter 274.58 KB

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Applauds Governor's Signature on Bill to Take More Prohibited Firearms off the Streets

October 10, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today praised Governor Jerry Brown’s signature of Senate Bill 819, which will allow law enforcement officers to take more firearms out of the hands of those who are prohibited from owning them.

“Department of Justice Special Agents are the secret weapon of California law enforcement. I applaud Governor Brown for signing this law that will authorize our Special Agents to utilize existing funds to seize firearms from felons, gang members, the mentally ill and others who cannot legally possess such weapons,” Attorney General Harris said. “Seizing guns from the most dangerous among us is the kind of smart law enforcement that makes a difference in the everyday lives of Californians.”

SB 819, by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), allows the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers to fund the Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS), a program administered by the California Department of Justice.

“There is a troubling blind spot in our current enforcement of firearms laws,” said Senator Leno. “Thousands of gun owners who once obtained their weapons legally still possess firearms despite subsequent issues, including criminal activities, which disqualify them from owning weapons. Innocent lives have been lost because we allow guns to be in the hands of known criminals and people who have serious mental illnesses. SB 819 helps remedy this troubling threat to public safety.”

The Bureau of Firearms has identified more than 18,000 Californians who illegally possess tens of thousands of firearms. Every day, 15 to 20 names are added to the list of prohibited persons who own firearms. SB 819 allows the Department of Justice to use a surplus from the Dealer’s Record of Sale account to enforce APPS. The program, which began in 2007, cross-references five databases to find people who legally purchased firearms since 1996 with those who have since been prohibited from owning or possessing them.

Law enforcement officials in California have long struggled to disarm people who are prohibited from owning a firearm. State and local officials lack the resources necessary to confiscate the enormous backlog of weapons, nor can they keep up with the daily influx of newly-prohibited persons. SB 819 helps to ensure that more persons on the APPS list are identified and their weapons confiscated.

In June, Attorney General Harris announced the results of a statewide sweep in which 1,209 firearms were seized from individuals legally barred from possessing them. The six-week sweep conducted by 99 agents from the Department of Justice also seized 155,731 rounds of ammunition and two grenades.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Files Brief in Support of Federal Health Care Law

August 22, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has filed a brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit supporting the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and urging the court to affirm the states’ rights to protect the health and safety of their citizens.

“The law strikes an appropriate, constitutional balance between federal and state authority over the health care system,” Attorney General Harris said. “It establishes federal standards, backed by federal funding, to expand access to affordable coverage while conferring considerable latitude on states to design systems that work best for their citizens.”

Attorney General Harris, joined by nine other attorneys general, asserted in the brief that the federal health care law bolsters, rather than usurps, state authority to address problems in the national health care economy that the states cannot solve effectively on their own.

According to the brief, the health care law solves a national problem in a way that gives greater power to states by building on a successful model of cooperative federalism. Further, the brief states that the framework established by the law “empowers states to create enduring solutions to those problems, and to do so with federal support.” The attorneys general also argue that the minimum coverage provision is a constitutional and integral element of Congress’s interstate solution to the health care crisis.

California was joined in this brief along with Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

In July, the same group of attorneys general filed a friend-of-the court brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia urging that court to affirm the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law. Attorney General Harris also filed similar briefs in April in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in March in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, and in January in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Eighth Circuit case is Kinder v. Geithner, No. 11-1973, United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. ###

California Law Enforcement Leaders Decry Public Safety Cuts in Proposed Budget; Will Cripple Anti-Gang and Anti-Drug Efforts

June 28, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO --- Law enforcement leaders from across the state of California today criticized the deep cuts to the Department of Justice’s law enforcement budget that specifically targeted anti-gang and anti-drug programs.

The general fund reduction proposals would reduce by $71 million the budget of the Division of Law Enforcement. This could lead to the loss of several hundred special agents and other personnel, the dissolution of 55 statewide task forces – many of which coordinate responses to transnational gang and drug crime – and the loss of investigators on the state’s new Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. As a result, two entire law enforcement bureaus could be shut down, the Bureau of Investigations and Intelligence (BII) and the Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement (BNE).

California Narcotic Officers’ Association President James C. Hodges:
“Yesterday’s budget agreement contained a bad surprise – the budget decimated the General Fund resources available to Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office for law enforcement purposes. The impact of these cuts will be the shutting down of all BNE task forces, as well as their offices. Each of you may recall that these same cuts were proposed in 2009 during the Schwarzenegger administration. Fortunately, the Legislature wisely rejected those proposed cuts. The reasons for rejecting those cuts in 2009 are as valid today as they were in 2009. In fact, they have become accentuated over the past two years. It is fact that the Mexican drug cartels have dramatically increased their profile in California. Additionally, the significant challenges local law enforcement will face in 2011 with public safety realignment is further reason to restore the BNE task forces. The fact is that the loss of BNE task forces will force local law enforcement – who will tell you frankly that they lack the expertise to deal with these sophisticated, multi-national criminal enterprises – to put scarce resources to fill the void left by the loss of BNE task forces. This is a diversion of local law enforcement resources that will unacceptably undermine their efforts to make public safety realignment work.”

Irvine Police Chief and California Police Chiefs Association President Dave Maggard:
“There were strong imperatives that existed in 2009 and still exist today for the restoration of the BNE (Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement) and still exist today for restoration of the BNE task forces: the Mexican drug cartels are steadily moving their operations into the California; drug cartel violence is already spilling over into the United States; the Sinaloa Cartel is becoming firmly entrenched in California; FBI sources with whom we have spoken believe that a majority of the 200 reported abductions in California are attributable to Mexican drug cartels enforcing their business arrangements; and prosecutors are noting a disturbing diversification of the cartels where they are also engaged in human sex trafficking, as well as their more “traditional” methamphetamine trafficking.Local law enforcement relies on the ability of the BNE task force to combat the increasingly sophisticated crime families involved in drug trafficking and in human trafficking.”

California District Attorneys Association President Gregory D. Totten:
“If this cut is allowed to stand, numerous entities within DOJ will be devastated. Though funded by the Restitution Fund, the Witness Relocation and Protection Program is staffed by DOJ personnel. A reduction in services within this program jeopardizes the ability of law enforcement to protect and relocate vital witnesses. Of additional concern is the potential negative impact on forensic services provided by DOJ. State forensic labs assist counties across the state with blood-alcohol and drug testing that is crucial to all types of prosecutions. This cut portends access to justice issues inasmuch as the availability of these services will become less uniform, specifically in counties that do not have local labs.”

Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert G. Otero:
“As a district attorney in a county bordering Mexico, I would like to take this opportunity to urge you to oppose the Governor’s proposal to cut $71 million from the Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement’s budget. Such a move would have a major negative impact on public safety in my county, in the state and across the entire nation.”

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis:
“The purpose of this letter is to share my concern with the proposed cuts to the California Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement (DLE). As the elected District Attorney of San Diego County, my office investigates and prosecutes crime along California’s border on a daily basis. It is through collaboration with the Division of Law Enforcement that we are able to see results from our efforts to stem the tide of violent crime crossing into California.The work of the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Bureau of Intelligence and Investigations is a key piece to a statewide strategy to prevent gang crime.I understand the challenges in balancing the state’s budget, but urge you to keep in mind that most local law enforcement agencies are taking severe staffing reductions, especially the smaller agencies, and we will need the assistance of DLE more than ever.”

East Palo Alto Police Chief Ronald L. Davis:
“The purpose of this letter is to share my concern with the proposed cuts to the California Department of Justice, Division of Law Enforcement (DLE). On June 5, 2011, two young men fired over a dozen bullets into a vehicle containing an innocent family of four leaving a baby shower in East Palo Alto. The heinous nature of this shooting shocked the entire Bay Area and underscores the real and serious danger gangs pose to our communities. Our response to this tragedy must extend beyond the arrest of the two killers: it must include holding the Nortenos and Surenos accountable as well. In order to do this, I need the assistance of DLE; otherwise, we are battling these gangs with 39 officers.”

In a statement released last night, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said:
“The proposed $71 million cut will cripple California’s statewide anti-gang and drug trafficking operations. Our Division of Law Enforcement leads 50 task forces across the state that target criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations. Earlier this month, one of these task forces took down 101 leaders and members of two transnational gangs terrorizing California’s Central Valley. Last month, we announced the seizure of over 100 lbs of methamphetamine and the arrests of more than 30 gang members in the Bay Area. These cuts will eliminate many, if not all, of these task forces and jeopardize many ongoing investigations.”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on Today's Proposed State Budget

June 27, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

The proposed $71 million cut will cripple California's statewide anti-gang and drug trafficking operations. Our Division of Law Enforcement leads 50 task forces across the state that target criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations. Earlier this month, one of these task forces took down 101 leaders and members of two transnational gangs terrorizing California's Central Valley. Last month, we announced the seizure of over 100 lbs of methamphetamine and the arrests of more than 30 gang members in the Bay Area. These cuts will eliminate many, if not all, of these task forces and jeopardize many ongoing investigations.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Testifies in Support of Bills Strengthening Her Crackdown on Transnational Gangs in California

April 26, 2011
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today testified in a state Senate committee in support of a pair of bills that will assist her efforts to fight transnational gangs that are fueled by gun violence and the drug trade.

One of the bills, SB 819 by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco, would dedicate funding to a unique California program that confiscates firearms from people legally barred from possessing them, including convicted felons and persons determined to be mentally unstable. The state Department of Justice, Bureau of Firearms estimates there are 18,615 armed prohibited persons possessing 34,708 handguns and 1,579 assault weapons in the state.

The second bill, SB 315 by Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood, would make products containing pseudoephedrine – a key ingredient in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamine – available only by prescription.

“Transnational gangs are the top emerging public safety threat to the people of California,” Attorney General Harris said. “These bills will help law enforcement take guns and drugs out of the hands of gang members. This is a key step in moving toward a smart on gang crime policy.”

Sen. Leno’s legislation would revise the penal code to expand the use of existing regulatory fees collected by gun dealers throughout the state to allow the state Department of Justice to confiscate unlawful firearms. The bill would not increase these fees.

Already, agents from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Firearms work extensively with local police and sheriffs to repossess thousands of weapons from people who shouldn’t possess them.

Since California in 2007 began its unique program – called “APPS” for Armed Prohibited Persons System –to identify these people and collect their weapons, more than 7,500 guns have been confiscated, an amount that would fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

In a sweep begun last month, agents with the Bureau of Firearms, along with local police and sheriffs, seized more than 1,100 guns, 150,000 rounds of ammunition and two grenades.

Last year, state agents and Fresno police took away 73 guns, including 17 unregistered assault weapons and a silencer fashioned out of a soda bottle, from a Fresno man recently released from a mental health facility who said he was preparing for Armageddon.

Coordinated law enforcement sweeps such as the current one could quickly reduce the backlog of APPS cases, but the sweeps cost money, and there is no likelihood of new tax money. The additional funding made available under Leno’s bill will allow the state to tackle the APPS backlog, provide continuing funding for the program, and make Californians safer.

California is at the center of the methamphetamine epidemic. It ranks first in the amount of illegal meth produced. It has more “super labs” capable of making more than 10 pounds of meth in a single day than all the other 49 states combined. Labs in California and Mexico operated by international drug cartels supply about 80 percent of the meth consumed in the United States.

Wright’s bill would make a significant impact on the meth epidemic ravaging California – and the meth labs based in this state feeding the nation’s addiction. After Oregon passed legislation in 2006 requiring a prescription to purchase pseudoephedrine, the number of meth labs there dropped from 400 to 12.

For legitimate consumers, making pseudoephedrine available only by prescription is no great loss. The drug is an active ingredient in only 14 products, and there are at least 136 other over-the-counter products that treat cold and allergy symptoms.

Both bills are common-sense solutions in an age of severe budget crisis. Neither bill costs taxpayers anything additional and each would save money by eliminating the commission of future crimes.

Brown Lauds Passage of the Nation's First Energy Storage Bill

September 29, 2010
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today hailed the signing of AB 2514 (Skinner), the country’s first energy storage bill, as “a major step towards energy independence.”

Brown sponsored the new law to facilitate the development of solar and wind power, create jobs and increase California’s energy independence by providing a mechanism for storing wind and solar power for use at times it can’t be generated, such as nighttime. Governor Schwarzenegger signed the bill this afternoon.

“Californians want clean, renewable energy, and energy storage is an important part of that,” said Brown. “This law will help reduce global warming emissions, improve air quality, and will be a major step towards energy independence.’

The law will jumpstart the state’s energy storage industry and lead to the creation of up to 10,000 manufacturing jobs, according to the California Energy Storage Alliance. Companies already have invested in some technologies for storing energy, such as using a thermal reserve or pumped hydroelectricity. Newer technologies include storing energy in various kinds of large-scale batteries, transforming it into flywheels and compressing it into air fields.

Energy storage is important for an expanding renewable energy future because solar and wind power are not available at all times. Increasing storage allows California to take greater advantage of its renewable resources while making our electric power grid more reliable.

Expanded storage will also protect public health by reducing the need for the most polluting “peaker plants” that only operate during peak demand, usually during the summer when air conditioners in the state are in most intense use.

Attorney General Brown has fought to protect California’s environment and worked to build a clean-energy infrastructure for the 21st century. He has successfully defended the state’s landmark clean cars law, leading to improvements in fuel efficiency nationwide, and has worked with local governments to ensure that their long-term growth plans improve air quality by reducing traffic and greenhouse gas pollution. For more information, please see: http://ag.ca.gov/globalwarming/

Brown Releases Study Showing DNA Collected at Arrests Helps to Solve Murders, Rapes and Other Violent Crimes

June 16, 2010
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today released a detailed forensic analysis showing that DNA collected at arrests –- even for non-violent offenses -- is “cracking cold cases” by providing positive identification of suspects in violent crimes such as rape, murder and robbery.

Proposition 69, which voters passed in 2004, required law enforcement officials to take DNA samples from all adults arrested for felonies in the state. So far it is working: more than 800 crime-scene samples have been matched since the beginning of last year to DNA collected from suspects under arrest.

In its analysis, the Attorney General’s office surveyed 69 DNA matches made over 15 months. The study revealed that in 78 percent of the matches to an unsolved violent crime, DNA was collected from an adult arrested for a non-violent offense such as fraud, drug or property crimes.

“Collecting DNA at the time of arrest is cracking cold cases that might have gone unsolved forever,” Brown said. “It is particularly significant that individuals arrested for non-violent crimes have been linked to the commission of violent crimes such as murder and rape.”

Since the 1990s, California law enforcement officers have collected DNA samples from people convicted of serious felony offenses. In January 2009, as part of changes mandated by Proposition 69, officers began collecting DNA samples from adults arrested for felonies by swabbing the inside of the cheek.

The effort is already yielding results.

For example, DNA collected from Donald Carter, 56, arrested in Sacramento in 2009 on a felony drug charge, was linked to the unsolved 20-year-old murder of Sophie McAllister, 80, in the capital. Although Carter’s drug charge was dismissed, he was later charged with murder and his trial is pending. (There are other examples at the end of this press release.)

In October, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the DNA arrestees program. The Attorney General prevailed in U.S. District Court, and the ACLU has appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In support of the Attorney General, the California District Attorneys Association filed a brief in March arguing that “the collection of DNA samples from felony arrestees serves an overwhelming interest in the pursuit of justice.” Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for July 13.

In its analysis of 69 DNA matches linking felony arrestees to violent crimes between January 1, 2009, and March 19 of this year, investigators found that 32 percent of the DNA matches were from adults arrested for felony property crimes, 26 percent from adults arrested for drug-related felonies, 10 percent from adults arrested for fraud and 10 percent for other non-violent crimes. Only 22 percent were for violent crimes.

Cases were selected for the analysis from arrests of suspects from whom DNA had never been taken. Here are some of the other findings:

• In 16 percent of the DNA matches involving unsolved rape cases, the new DNA sample came from a person arrested for fraud.
• In 34 percent of the DNA matches involving an unsolved murder case, the new DNA sample came from a person arrested for a drug crime.
• In 36 percent of the DNA matches involving an unsolved robbery case, the new DNA sample came from a person arrested for felony DUI.

A summary of the analysis can be found at http://ag.ca.gov/bfs/pdf/arrestee.pdf

Some cases that illustrate how collecting DNA at arrests helps to nab suspects in crimes that might otherwise remain unsolved:

• In May 2009, Anthony Vega was arrested in Los Angeles County on felony drug charges, which were later reduced to misdemeanors. However, his DNA, collected at the time of arrest, was linked to two separate crimes committed in Orange County, a burglary in 2007 and a 2008 armed home invasion robbery. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next month.
• Earlier this year, Joshua Graham Packer, 20, was arrested in Santa Barbara on armed robbery charges. His DNA, collected at the arrest, was matched to a sample taken at the site of an unsolved 2009 triple murder in Ventura County. He was arrested for that crime in April and charged with murder.
• In April 2009, Christopher Rogers, 34, was arrested in Sacramento for assault with a deadly weapon, which was ultimately reduced to a misdemeanor. But his DNA, collected at the time of arrest, was matched to DNA taken at the scene of a 2004 murder in Sacramento. In October, Rogers was arrested and charged with murder. He awaits trial.

Overall, the state’s DNA Data Bank is the fourth largest such program in the world. It has aided more than 12,000 criminal investigations.

For more information about Prop. 69, see the California Department of Justice website: http://ag.ca.gov/bfs/prop69.php.

Brown Prods Congress on Financial Services Reform

June 8, 2010
Contact: (916) 210-6000, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

OAKLAND — Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling on Congress to pass tough financial services reform legislation that contains strong consumer protection and allows state attorneys general to “enforce all federal consumer protection laws against national banks, not just regulations that may be adopted by the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.”

Brown’s letter:

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

In anticipation of a compromise on the House and Senate financial services reform bills, I urge you to press for the strongest possible language to protect consumers and our economy from another debilitating crisis caused by reckless Wall Street banking practices and complicit federal regulators.

Two elements of a compromise bill are key to that protection. One, national banks should be subject to the same state consumer protection laws as state banking institutions and virtually all companies operating in industries other than financial services. And, two, state attorneys general should have the authority to enforce all applicable consumer protection laws against national banks.

The House language is preferable on both points, and I recommend that you push for its adoption. It would establish a higher burden for the OCC to preempt state consumer protection laws. It also would allow state attorneys general to enforce all federal consumer protection laws against national banks, not just regulations that may be adopted by the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency.