Car break-in victims have to prove their vehicle was locked, a state lawmaker wants to change that

California State Sen. Scott Wiener is hoping a small change to the law will have a dramatic impact on car break-ins. This law aims to close what amounts to a loophole that prosecutors say is letting burglars off the hook.

The bill being introduced would get rid of a requirement where the vehicle's owner has to prove that their car was locked at the time of the break-in. 

Prosecutors say that small change will mean more burglars behind bars.

San Francisco leaders say reports of auto break-ins are down by 10% this year over last; still an astonishing 15,000 car break-ins have been reported so far in 2023. 

"This is a harmful crime, and we want to be sure that our law enforcement have the tools they need to address it," said State Sen. Wiener.

The way it works now is that prosecutors are required to prove that a vehicle was locked at the time of the break-in, even if the thieves broke a window. 

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins says even if prosecutors have witnesses or video of a suspect breaking into a vehicle, they still have to prove that it was locked at the time. 

"But without having someone who owns the car, or possesses the car say they locked the doors would be required to dismiss that case or see that case dismissed by a judge," said DA Jenkins.

Prosecutors say that makes no sense. Under the proposed bill, prosecutors would no longer need those witnesses to testify. 

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"So we won't need those victims or those possessors of the cars to say anything on that issue whatsoever," said DA Jenkins. "Which could very well need to us not needing their testimony whatsoever."

Mayor London Breed sponsored the bill, and says auto break-ins are not victimless crimes. They harm the vehicle's owner, the city's reputation and the city's economy all at the same time.

"Ultimately we want to make San Francisco a safe city," said Mayor Breed. "But, also we want to make sure that these crimes that impact the quality of life don't continue in the way that they have."

Wiener plans on introducing the bill in January when the legislature reconvenes. The senator tells KTVU that this is the third time he's introduced this bill since 2018, the last two times it died in committee, but, this time, he says he believes there is strong support for the bill and he hopes it reaches the governor's desk next year.


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