Ten months after California voters passed a ballot measure reducing several drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, Gov. Jerry Brown will be asked to consider a bill intended to soften one impact of Proposition 47.
The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved Senate Bill 333, which would create a new felony for the possession of date-rape drugs with the intent to commit a sexual assault, sending it to Brown’s desk for a signature.
Simple possession of date-rape drugs such as Rohypnol was reduced from a wobbler – a crime that prosecutors can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony – to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47, raising concern among advocates who argued it would weaken sexual assault laws.
Sen. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, originally sought to restore simple possession of the drugs to a wobbler, but the version of her bill approved Thursday creates a new felony that prosecutors could use under certain circumstances. The new crime would give prosecutors an option to charge someone for making preparations to commit an assault with a date rape drug – even if the assault was never attempted. Galgiani said courts and prosecutors will have to determine in which cases the new crime could apply. “There’s no bright line,” Galgiani said. “That’s going to be left open to interpretation.”
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The Legislature’s analysis of the bill described one set of circumstances in which prosecutors could use the proposed law: A suspect tells witnesses he intends to drug someone and have sex with them, then administers the drug but is stopped before an assault is attempted.
“Given the difficult nature of prosecuting sexual assault crimes, the Legislature should embrace this opportunity to provide serious consequences for criminals who use date-rape drugs to facilitate a heinous crime against someone who has been incapacitated,” Galgiani said before the 37-0 vote.
Proposition 47, which supporters promoted last fall as a way to reduce the state’s prison population and correctional spending, has been increasingly controversial as the impacts of the law become clearer. Several more proposed changes addressing DNA collection and penalties for firearm theft were introduced this year, but all of them have since stalled.
Among the other legislation the Senate sent to Brown on Thursday:
▪ Senate Bill 549, by Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, allowing nonprofits associated with professional sports teams to conduct charitable raffles.
▪ Senate Bill 731, by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, requiring that foster children be placed in housing according to their gender identity.
▪ Senate Bill 29, by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, implementing eight hours of police officer training for handling people with mental illnesses.