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Lawmaker calls proposed legislation catch and release for drunk drivers

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POSTED June 14, 2012 10:17 p.m.


SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Offenders sentenced to jail could get work release credit for participating in educational, vocational, drug treatment and other programs under a bill approved by the state Senate on Thursday.

The bill is intended to help sheriffs deal with a new state law that sends less serious offenders to local jails instead of state prisons. It would give them more flexibility in handling criminals while easing jail crowding, said Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, who carried the bill in the Senate.

Senators approved the bill despite objections from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which wanted people convicted of drunken driving exempted from AB2127.

"This bill would establish a catch-and-release program for drunk drivers," said Sen. Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa. Sheriffs could free drunken drivers on work release, then let them complete that requirement by attending "life skills classes" or the like, he said.

Negrete McLeod said the bill applies to offenders, including drunken drivers, who were going to be released to a work program already.

"We have limited resources. We have to use them in the wisest way possible," added Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.

Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said the bill could help drunken drivers get treatment that would count toward completing their sentence.

The bill is supported by organizations representing counties and state sheriffs. Besides MADD, it also is opposed by the state district attorneys association, which objects to letting any offender skip manual labor as a condition of work release.

Anderson dubbed the bill "Roger's Law," named after state Assemblyman Roger Hernandez. The Democrat from West Covina introduced the bill, but later was charged with drunken driving himself.

Hernandez pleaded not guilty last month, but has apologized and said he did not believe he was drunk when he was arrested driving a state-owned car in March in the eastern San Francisco Bay area city of Concord.

Hernandez's name was stripped from the Senate version of the bill, which passed 21-14 with no votes to spare. It now returns to the Assembly for a final vote.


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