Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, December 31, 2009


Page 1


D.A. Proposes Legislation to Reinstate Body Armor Ban


From Staff and Wire Service Reports


Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley said yesterday that his office has authored urgency legislation which would reinstate California’s law banning possession of body armor by violent felons.

Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal overturned the ban earlier this month in People v. Saleem, 09 S.O.S. 7083, ruling that Penal Code Sec. 12370’s prohibition on a convicted felon’s possession of body armor was unconstitutionally vague.

California banned felons from having body armor in 1998 after a nationally televised shootout in North Hollywood between police and two heavily armed and armored bank robbers the year before which left the robbers dead and 10 police officers and five other people injured.

Cooley said that the proposed legislation defines “body armor” as “a bulletproof vest, meaning any bulletproof material intended to provide ballistic and trauma protection for the wearer.” 

Justice Richard D. Aldrich had advocated for such a definition in his dissent in Saleem, but Presiding Justice Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, joined by Justice H. Walter Croskey, had concluded that Sec. 12370 incorporated the technical definition of body armor contained in the Code of Regulations, which entailed a rigorous testing regimen requiring the use of sophisticated testing facilities to establish that a particular body vest will protect against specified test ammunition.

Klein reasoned that a person of ordinary intelligence would have no reasonable way of knowing if a particular vest met the stringent requirements necessary to qualify as body armor under the regulations and this failure to provide fair notice offended due process.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Attorney General Jerry Brown said that the office will seek review of the ruling to the Supreme Court and anticipates filing its petition between Jan. 17 and Jan. 26, but Cooley opined that the state should not be without a law in the meantime.

Cooley insisted that the ban on body armor was “too important an issue to let…wind through the appellate process when there is a straightforward legislative solution readily available.”

The California Peace Officers Association, California Police Chiefs Association, California Narcotic Officers’ Association, Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association, California Correctional Supervisors Organization, California Association of Code Enforcement Officers and the Los Angeles Police Protective League have joined the legislative effort as co-sponsors, a spokesperson for Cooley’s office said, adding that more law enforcement organizations are expected to join as co-sponsors.

The proposed legislation still needs a legislative sponsor.


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