Tulare County District Attorney Tim Ward is urging residents to contact Governor Gavin Newsom asking him not to sign AB 3234, a bill that would allow for diversion programs in most misdemeanor prosecutions, even for serious misdemeanors like DUI, child abuse, and hate crimes.

It would also allow a judge to offer diversion, thus no conviction, over the objection of the prosecutor and victim.

AB 3234 allows for diversion in most misdemeanor criminal prosecutions. This includes crimes like DUI, vehicular manslaughter, elder abuse, child abuse, assault, hate crimes, carrying a concealed firearm, possession of a firearm in a school zone, criminal threats, and dissuading a witness. The bill also applies to repeat and violent offenders where prosecutors will no longer be able to allege prior diverted charges, such as a prior DUI or a firearms possession charge.

In addition, the bill would lower the age of “elder parole” from 60 to 50. Current law grants an inmate a parole hearing after turning 60 and having served 25 continuous years of a sentence. This bill would also reduce the time served to 20 years.

This office is a strong supporter of diversion programs like drug, mental health, and veterans’ court when appropriate and with consideration of the victim. However, AB 3234 is another attempt by legislators to expand early release and decrease accountability,” said District Attorney Tim Ward. “This potential law ignores the danger posed by drunk or impaired drivers and sends the wrong message. This office prosecutes well over 2,000 DUI cases each year since 2014. In 2019, we saw a significant increase in DUI cases investigated by law enforcement. Sending the message to would be drunk

drivers that there might be zero accountability for this dangerous crime is horrendous. That is why Mothers Against Drunk Driving opposes this potential law.

The number of vehicular deaths as result of alcohol or drugs has doubled in the past year alone. All but one of the cases had a prior DUI and prosecutors are allowed to use that prior to enhance punishment or charge a more serious crime. If the Governor signs this bill into law, that ability could be dramatically impacted. The law as it stands now is barely a deterrent from engaging in such reckless behavior. AB 3234 would potentially make a misdemeanor DUI a matter of paperwork and personal inconvenience.

If that isn’t reason enough to ask the Governor to not sign this bill, out community needs to look no further that the quality of life crimestheft, vandalism, and trespassing, which over the past few years have become the bane of our county’s small business owners. Every single one of these types of crimes would be subject to diversion and no punishment. Be it COVID precautions, $0 bail, or the elements in this proposed bill, California is desperately intent on telling victims they have no voice. I urge our community to let Governor Newsom hear your voice.”

Residents can contact the Governor's office at (916) 445-2841 or write to the Governor at https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/.

Newsom has until September 30 to decide if he wants to sign the bill into law.

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