This week a San Francisco free-speech group, the First Amendment Coalition, sued the California Attorney General and Justice Department over their refusal to disclose police misconduct records under the state’s new transparency laws. Last year the Senate passed a bill providing the public with greater access to police personnel files as well as greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force encounters. Details surrounding both laws are described below.
Greater Access to Police Personnel Files
The California Penal Code was amended with Senate Bill §1421 to permit more access to police and prison personnel records. In the past, police and prison personnel records were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons even for litigation and public-records requests.
While police and prison personnel records are still confidential, they may be released in situations in which one or more of the following conditions apply.
- When a gun is fired by police or prison personnel that results in death or great bodily injury;
- A sustained finding that police or prison personnel sexually assaulted someone; or
- A sustained finding that police or prison personnel were dishonest in a criminal case or in the investigation of another police or prison officer.
A sustained finding is a decision by investigational authorities in cases of police or prison personnel misconduct that finds fault in the conduct of the police or prison officer.
Greater Access to Video and Audio From Police Shootings
Assembly Bill §748 also amended the California Government Code and provides the public with greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force incidents that result in death or great bodily injury.
The right to receive access to video and audio is not absolute. A police department or prison may deny disclosure or release of the video and audio recordings if the incident is under investigation and if would violate someone’s privacy rights. Assembly Bill §748 goes into effect on July 1, 2019.
Charged With a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime in California?
Most people in the criminal justice system are first-time offenders. For many accused people it may be the first and only criminal case they have in their lifetime. Understanding your rights and the steps involved to resolve a criminal case brings peace of mind during a turbulent and scary time for you and your loved ones.
Contact an experienced and knowledgeable San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged. Continue reading