Under existing law, the Attorney General shall furnish summary criminal history information to a public defender or attorney of record when representing a person in a criminal case.

This bill would state that this authority extends to a public defender or attorney of record when representing a person in a criminal case or a juvenile delinquency proceeding, including on appeal or during any post conviction motions, if the information is requested in the course of representation.

Exciting new amendments to Section 11105 of the Penal Code have been signed and approved as of September 30, 2018.  The bill AB2133 resolves a confusing issue regarding requests for rap sheets.  It was signed by state senator Shirley Weber (D). As existing law states, the attorney general is required to furnish state summary criminal history information to specified persons or entities, such as courts or probation officers, if the information is needed in the course of their duties, and authorizes the Attorney General to furnish state or federal summaries upon a “showing of a compelling need to other persons or entities”.

As a result, prosecutors have refused to share rap sheets with defense attorneys, arguing that state law prohibits such sharing–regardless of whether the rap sheet pertains to the individual of whom they represent.  

Existing law states “whenever state or federal summary criminal history information is furnished by the Department of Justice as the result of an application by an authorized agency or organization and the information is to be used for certain purposes, including for peace officer employment or certification purposes.”

The bill AB2133 extends this wording of “authority” to include public defenders of attorneys of record when representing a person in a criminal case, “if the information is requested in the course of representation”.

Without this crucial amendment to the Penal Code Section 11105, it is clear to us that this blocking of valuable information to defense attorney is inherently problematic to fair and just legal proceedings, since it provides a disproportionately greater source of information to prosecutors and thereby ill-informed criminal defense attorneys of the entire breadth of their case.

Because rap sheets are often referred to by prosecutors to drive the arguments of a case, ei: prior convictions, arrests, etc may be leveled against the defendant as evidence of their culpability, it is pertinent that criminal defense attorneys have adequate information regarding the particulars of any prior rap sheet.  Granted, their defendant could disclose prior information, yet the important details regarding priors–such as arrests, persons involved in the prior convictions/cases, etc can all play essential parts in the ways a case is argued.  Clearly, law which creates this sort of inherent imbalance of knowledge in relevant case details must be addressed.  Hence AB2133 is meant to resolve this issue by giving concise conditions for criminal defense attorneys to obtain rap sheets, thereby requiring prosecutors to disseminate rap sheets to defense counsel, regardless of statutes or case law.