|For Immediate Release
June 30, 2009
|Susan Kang Schroeder
Public Affairs Counsel
ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY URGES GOVERNOR AND LAWMAKERS TO REJECT PROPOSAL TO REDUCE SERIOUS FELONY CRIMES
*OCDA warns lawmakers of dire consequences to public safety
SANTA ANA – Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas sent a letter today to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and California lawmakers in opposition to a State proposal to reduce certain felonies that may be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors (wobblers) to straight misdemeanors.
The letter details District Attorney Rackauckas’ grave concerns regarding this proposal and outlines severe and unintended consequences to public safety, while merely transferring costs and burdens from the State to local governments. District Attorney Rackauckas warned that the proposal will virtually eliminate these types of cases as crimes and seriously harm potential victims and the efforts of law enforcement to prevent and prosecute these crimes.
Many of the proposed reductions involve crimes of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, the receipt and concealment of the proceeds of fraud, or the fastest growing crime of all, identity theft. As the essence of these crimes is concealment and deception, they are notoriously difficult to uncover and investigate.
Reducing these crimes to misdemeanors automatically reduces the applicable statute of limitations for filing charges to one year from the date of the offense. This will make it even more difficult, if not impossible, to effectively investigate and successfully prosecute these offenses. Compounding this is the fact that, with few exceptions, search warrants may only be issued when there is evidence of a felony. Law enforcement will be unable to get authorization from a magistrate to search a suspect’s property and seize the elicit evidence. Search warrants are vital and extensively used in the investigation of fraud cases.
“In practice, by reducing crimes involving insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, automobile thefts and chop shops, foreign money laundering, sales of securities and tax fraud to misdemeanors, lawmakers will be decriminalizing and doing away with the prosecution of these crimes,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
“The consequences of this will be unavoidable. Given the size and scope of large, complex fraud cases, and with no ability to search for and seize evidence, there is simply no reasonable expectation that such crimes could be discovered, investigated and prosecuted within a 1-year period. Conspiracies to commit fraud will be even more difficult to prove as the defining characteristic of such crimes is secrecy,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.