So we have to ask ourselves, "What, after all, is a low-level crime?"
The question that follows is "How much reliance should the common citizen put on the assurances of state government?"
Particularly state government that is being required (or coerced) to act at the direction of the federal judiciary.
Here's a case that addresses these questions, and the troubling points they raise:
This past week, a jury hung 11-1 on a murder conviction, and there will be another trial for Marvin Hicks in the death of 2-year-old Madison Ruano of Lancaster.
The toddler was killed in a catastrophic vehicle collision, while Hicks - high on PCP - was attempting to evade Sheriff's Department patrol units and crashed into the vehicle carrying little Madison, and her mother, who was seriously injured.
The jury convicted Hicks of evading a peace officer causing injury, evading a peace officer causing death, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and DUI, with a special allegation that he personally inflicted great bodily injury on a child younger than 5.
Prison sentences for all those counts are inevitable, but they will await retrial on the murder change. An 11-1 in favor of guilt mistrial virtually guarantees the District Attorney will prosecute the case again.
Under questioning by his attorney and by the prosecutor, Hicks repeatedly said, "It was never my intention to hurt anyone."
Hicks also told both attorneys that he is "so sorry," which has to be of little to no comfort to the kin of Madison Ruano, who will never see their little girl's third birthday.
Again, what constitutes a low-level crime?
In this case, the origin of the homicide of Madison Ruano began around 11 a.m. on the day that the toddler was killed, and it began at the moment Hicks smoked a "PCP-laced cigar," and decided to get in a motor vehicle a few hours later.
We have navigated a couple of years of Gov. Jerry Brown's so-called "prison re-alignment" program in which "low-level offenders" are evaluated for release into the community.
Brown acted under compulsion of federal judges who have ruled that crowding in our state prisons is so large, and medical services are so inadequate, that the prison system violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. So thousands of prisoners have been released. Some of the hard cases have been sent to county jails, and low-level offenders released into communities like Lancaster and Palmdale, California City and so on.
The ones who are flowing back into the Antelope Valley and other bastions of affordable shelter across the state are the so-called "low-level" criminals. Like Hicks, who had convictions for all kinds of things, some of which were pleaded down to less serious offenses. He caught a vandalism plea. The action involved kicking in his ex-wife's door while brandishing a shotgun. A plea, and some more probation.
So, again, the question is what constitutes low-level crime? Kicking in a door, terrorizing a person, brandishing a weapon? Or, smoking PCP and getting behind the wheel after a bunch of other moving violations?
Do you suppose it would be a good idea to ask the Ruano family what makes up the definition of low-level crime?