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California’s criminal justice system has serious flaws that impact defendants all across the state. However, the state legislature recently passed a criminal justice bill aimed at improving criminal justice records and creating methods for courts to easily share important data. Even though it was passed by the state legislature, it will not become law until the governor signs it.
In its current state, the state’s criminal justice system has a significant number of data gaps in its criminal history records. According to the recently passed bill AB 1331, these gaps mean that the records are inaccurate and not reliable. This is backed up by an estimate from the Department of Justice, which says that 60% of arrest records do not have necessary disposition information, like judges’ rulings or sentencing. The data gaps in criminal history records can and do lead to the criminalization of otherwise innocent people.
Another issue is how decentralized the criminal justice system is in California. All law enforcement agencies in the state are responsible for their own data collection. The 2016 OpenJustice Data Act created a public platform for accessing criminal justice data, which made it possible for the state’s law enforcement agencies to compare side-by-side information. While helpful, it did not help these agencies address the issue of data gaps in criminal history records. If signed into law, the AB 1331 would create clear options for sharing relevant information and would also create reporting requirements to fill in missing data in criminal records.
No matter what charges a defendant is facing, he or she deserves a fair chance in the criminal justice system. With the current missing data in the majority of criminal history records, getting that fair chance can be difficult. This is one of many reasons that defendants defendants often choose to work with experienced attorneys who can help uphold and protect their rights.