Criminal Law Revision in California

The high water mark of criminal law reform in California was reached in 1872 when the legislature, after at least a decade of indifference to requests for action, adopted the Penal Code, the Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure.’ This emergence into the company of contemporary pioneers of codification, Louisiana and New York, was a source of complacent pride, but it proved to be completely ineffective as a stimulus for continuing revision or even further codification. Renewed interest in improving and modernizing the law was not apparent until well into the twentieth century. When this interest did appear, it did not include the criminal law except for a succession of ad hoc efforts, particularly in the improvement of criminal procedure. The substantive part of the Code suffered and continues to suffer from a year to year accretion of duplicitous, overlapping and frequently incompatible statutes. These are most usually enacted in response to what are perceived to be the law enforcement emergencies of the moment and not out of any real concern for or interest in achieving an integrated, coherent and rational code of criminal law.