Developments in Criminal Law
New Laws from the 2022 Legislative Cycle

Licensed Bounty Hunters, Rap Lyrics, and Mental Illness

In 2022, the California Legislature focused on protecting defendants in a variety of ways. The Evidence Code has been amended to include a law limiting the admissibility of rap lyrics because of the undue prejudice they can cause in the mind of the trier of fact. Repeat theft offenders may again be offered diversion. After a 2021 fatal shooting by a bounty hunter, the legislature implemented a licensing scheme to better track and regulate “fugitive recovery agents.” Finally, CARE courts now offer additional assistance and resources for defendants with schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorders.

CARE Court Act Into Aims To Help Californians in the Legal System with Mental Illness

SB 1338, otherwise known as The Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment Act,  to create opportunities for help outside of conservatorships or the constraints of local and federal institutions. CARE Court allows families, clinicians, and first responders to refer those with schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorders to the program.

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AB 2294 Reinstates Diversion for Repeat Theft Offenses

Assembly Bill AB 2294 adds Penal Code sections 1001.81 and 1001.82, which authorizes a city or county prosecutor or probation department to create a diversion or deferred entry of judgment program for defendants who have committed a theft offense or repeat theft offenses.

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California’s AB 2043 Established Professional Licenses for Bounty Hunters

AB 2043 now requires a published list of Fugitive Recovery Agents (“FRAs”); and to gauge the size and scope of the California bounty-hunting scene, the bill also requires FRAs to do the following:  to hold a CDI-issued license to perform FRA work (persons already holding other CDI bail licenses could use existing training and education to satisfy requirements); to complete POST training and educational courses already required for FRA certification; to undergo fingerprint-based background checks as part of the licensing scheme (the bill reiterates that persons with felony convictions may not be licensed without undergoing the CDI’s vetting process); and to carry liability insurance with minimum limits of $1,000,000 (the latest version of the bill allows some leeway for reasonable lack of availability or affordability).

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Decriminalizing Artistic Expression Act Limits Use of Rap Lyrics in California Criminal Trials

New Evidence Code section 352.2 limits the admissibility of creative expression as evidence used in criminal trials and civil proceedings. Creative expression is defined as “the expression or application of creativity or imagination in the production or arrangement of forms, sounds, words, movements, or symbols, including, but not limited to, music, dance, performance art, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and other such objects or media.” (Evid. Code, § 352.2(c).)

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Californians Can Sue Makers of Illegal Assault Weapons and Ghost Guns

SB 1327 creates a private right of action against any person in California who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports into the state or sells assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns, or ghost gun kits in violation of state law. Under the new law, individuals can also sue gun dealers who illegally sell firearms to people under 21.

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