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Controversial Crime Bill Aims To Redefine Robberies In California

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A controversial bill on the floor of the Senate would make some robberies a misdemeanor, not a felony.

Some leaders are calling it "insanely irresponsible."

The bill, SB 82, hopes to "redefine" robbery, and the penalty that comes with it to a maximum of one year in county jail.

It's something some people call a slap on the wrist.

"It's going to declare open season on Californians, there's going to be no reason to not use force or fear," said Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry.

Curry says the crime bill would wreak havoc on our communities. SB 82 would turn robberies of less than $950 dollars, that don't involve weapons or cause serious injuries, into petty theft.

"It's ridiculous, I can't believe we're even talking about this," said Curry.

How would the bill impact sentencing?

Robbery is now classified as a violent offense and punishable by up to five years in prison. If the bill passes, petty theft offenders would face up to a year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both, and qualify for a diversion program.

It would also allow people with closed cases to file petitions to get their prior robbery convictions changed based on the new law.

Fighting For Victims' Rights

The District Attorney says he's fighting for victims' rights, saying the change would put community members like local store clerks at risk for future robberies.

Mohammad, a store manager said, "You don't know what they have, what they carry if they're armed."

Anthony Villa, the owner of Hobby Badger Games, said, "violence perceived is violence achieved, a threat of a possible weapon. That's a really gray area."

Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) is behind the bill and discussed that gray area when it comes to "serious injuries" at a committee hearing Tuesday.

"Certainly, any theft that involves an injury to a person. And I want to be clear that under the law, great bodily injury can include bruising, a black eye, can be defined under our statute as great bodily injury. My bill, SB 82, would not allow that then to become a petty theft," she said.

California Penal code defines serious injury as including concussions, losing an organ and broken bones.

It's unclear how the state law would be handled at a county court level. SB 82 now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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