January 2012 Archives

Orange County, California Puppy Theft Yields No Criminal Charges

January 31, 2012,

A women will not be facing charges for her theft of a chow puppy from a pet store in Orange County, California, after she paid the store and apologized in a note, according to Puppy thief avoids charges after sending pet store $600 and an apology letter.

The suspect was caught on a surveillance video taking a puppy from the store while a male companion distracted the clerk. The case has garnered attention, in part, because the suspect avoid charges by paying the store "in full." It is not uncommon in theft cases for defendants to seek a dismissal of criminal charges by offering a store a civil compromise under Penal Code section 1377. However, PC 1377 applies to misdemeanor cases. The suspects here stole a dog valued over $400 and were subject to felony commerical burglary charges. So why did the store owners at Pet City ask that the case be dropped, according to the L.A. Times? The reasons is that Pet City only cares about profits, not the dogs they sell.
Animal lovers also may want to ask "What happened to the puppy?"

The theft of animals for sale is big business. According to pet blogger, Teddy Hilton, animal theft is on the rise. One might look to the state of the economy to explain these acts. Whatever reason, the theft of animals is cause for concern. The sale of animals as commodities reflects a belief in our society that animals are no more than property, to be bought and sold... and sometimes stolen. For those of us with companion animals, this can be hard to swallow.

However, the law reinforces these beliefs when it regards animals only as property to be bought and sold. This is the message law enforcement sends when it fails to prosecute on behalf of an animal who was harmed.The law only recognizes the shop owner as victim (which is a whole other story-- buying and selling animals in a tiny glass cabinet for profit garners little sympathy from me). The animal is of no more concern to anyone in this story than a stolen pair of shoes from Shoe City, another franchise down the street. I know this is the state of the law. It still makes me sad that no one seems to care much about that missing dog, let alone what causes people to steal dogs in the first place.

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California's 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Gives Opportunity To Re-Examine How Criminal Justice System Treats Non-Violent Offenders in Orange County and Other Counties.

January 26, 2012,

In October of 2011, California legislation went into effect that significantly changes how the criminal justice system treats non-violent offenders in its care. Some public officials have commented on these changes in Public Officials Talk About Public Safety Realignment. Information about these changes can be found on the Criminal Justice Realignment Act website.

The realignment act boasts a new sentencing sceme. Some of the changes include giving local agencies responsibility, and money, for keeping certain low-level offenders out of prison, either by holding them in county jails or by placing them under out-of-custody supervision. The goal is to keep as many offenders out of prison as possible. This is an effort of the state to comply with the federal court's order to reduce the state prison population.

Judges will not be required to sentence"non-violent, non-serious, non-sex" felons to local custody or supervised release as opposed to to state prison.

Courts also will also now play a role in deciding whether a convicted person's post-release supervision should be revoked for any violation. Convicted persons will be supervised by probation instead of parole. Probation will be involved with violations and have the option to include short-term "flash" incarceration. If the department seeks to revoke the offender's community supervision, the local judge will hear the petition and can decide whether to send offenders back to jail for up to 180 days.

In July of 2013 courts will begin to hear parole revocation hearings as well.

According to Allen Hopper, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union in California, North County Times, Brandon Lowrey, December 17, 2011,
"Realignment is an opportunity to re-examine how the justice system treats non-serious offenders. It goes beyond a desire to protect the public, the idea that we have to punish by keeping people in a cage for these low-level offenses is ... an expensive indulgence we can no longer afford."

Realignment relies on community resources for individuals adjusting to society. Such resources require funding that some public officials say California needs. Stakeholders claim that they will not return from Sacramento without the funding that is needed to provide resources in the counties where offenders will receive treatment.

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Rising Rate of Incarcerated Female Juveniles

January 1, 2012,

According to a recent story published on NPR, the last ten years have witnessed a decrease in the number of incarcerated male juveniles and an increase in the number female juveniles being detained in jails and residential institutions.

A report entitled "Improving the Juvenile Justice System for Girls", from the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, estimates that females make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, accounting for more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges each year.

Co-author of the report, Georgetown University professor Peter Edelman, maintains that many of the girls that end up in the justice system have family problems, trauma or a history of abuse. Edelman claims that over fifty percent of the female juveniles aren't being detain for serious crimes but more often are skipping school, breaking curfew or running away from home. Edelman believes that "Getting them back into school and getting them back on a path without invoking the sanctions of the juvenile and criminal justice system... is so much better in terms of not leaving those wounds and scars and preserving the possibilities for the future."

The Georgetown report contends that juveniles don't belong in adult jails or prisons and should not be incarcerated for minor offenses such as violating probation. This position has come under sharp criticism from opponents such as Dakota County, Minnesota district attorney James Backstrom.

In the NPR story Backstrom argues, "We're talking about kids that are violating curfew laws, being truant from school [and] violating court orders. Do we need the authority to pick those kids up? I think we do." Backstrom continued, saying "[I]f you ignore the small issue, you might not get to the big issue before it's too late."

It would appear that some states, including California, are moving at least a little closer to the position outlined in the Georgetown Report. As previously discussed by this blog, the California Supreme Court, in People v. Caballero, recently struck down lengthy prison sentences for juveniles on non-homicide offenses that effectively amounted to a sentence of life without parole.

One example of the negative impact the justice system can have on juveniles is Jabriera Handy. Four years ago, Handy was incarcerated at the Baltimore City Detention Center after her grandmother died of a heart attack shortly after Handy fought with her. Because her grandmother had died so shortly after the fight, Handy was charged as an adult with second degree murder and spent eleven months in the detention center.

Handy recalled one instance where the detention center was locked down after another inmate was stabbed to death. According to Handy, she saw the man was" just laying there with a limp body," but had to continue on to school like nothing had happened. "[I]t wasn't like anybody came to us to talk about what [we had] just seen," Handy stated.

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