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The probable fiscal impact of implementing the bill is indeterminate due to the unavailability of reliable data or information related to the exact number of offenses that would be enhanced due to the provisions of the bill.
The bill would amend the Penal Code as it relates to certain repeat and habitual misdemeanor offenders. Under the provisions of the bill, certain misdemeanor offenses would be punishable as a state jail felony if the defendant, within the past 10 years, has been previously convicted of a felony or a certain number of misdemeanor offenses.
Enhancing the penalty for any criminal offense is expected to result in increased demands upon
the correctional resources of counties or of the State due to longer terms of supervision in the
community or longer terms of confinement in state correctional institutions. The bill would have a
negative fiscal impact by increasing the number of people under felony community supervision or
incarcerated within state correctional institutions. Whether the bill would result in a significant
fiscal impact is indeterminate due to a lack of statewide data to allow for an assumption about the
number of times the enhancement provision would be used.
The fiscal note above provides an accurate and adequate description of what this legislation would do if enacted.
The sentence enhancements contemplated under this legislation can be considered overcriminalization which is a violation of limited government. Enhancing penalties from a misdemeanor to a felony level is a substantial increase that comes with significant costs to both the taxpayer and the individual involved. Penalties should be proportional to the crime, but substantial increases based not on the actual crime involved but on past history can tend to be excessive, disproportionate, and in the long run costly. For these reasons we oppose HB 2170.
It should further be noted that a Class A misdemeanor already carries up to a year in jail, a $4,000 fine, and usually the repayment of numerous court fees that can get expensive very quickly; not to mention the massive legal bills that generally accrue. Add to that the long term economic and social consequences of having a Class A misdemeanor on one's record and the penalty is quite substantive indeed. Unless the crime is quite heinous, a Class A misdemeanor is by no means "getting off easy".