Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday signed into a law a bill by San Fernando Valley state Sen. Alex Padilla that outlaws the wearing of bullet-proof vests by ex-felons. The bill had also been pushed by Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley and the union representing Los Angeles police.
In December a state appeals court overturned a similar law, saying the language was so confusing as to make it "constitutionally vague." That decision stemmed from a 2007 L.A. police stop of a body-armor adorned convicted murderer, Ethan Saleem, whom the court said could not have know wearing the vest would land him back in jail.
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Cooley hailed Wednesday's signing:
"Violent felons who possess body armor represent a serious threat not only to law enforcement officers but to the general public as well," Cooley said. "This new law will help protect the lives of law enforcement officers and citizens by making it unlawful again in California for violent felons to possess body armor."
The fact that California had no such law after the court overturned the last one had some police boosters up in arms. The original legislation was inspired in part by the 1997 North Hollywood shootout, in which two armored gunman shot at police with relative impunity. The Los Angeles City Council even pondered its own anti-body-armor law.
"The legislation put forth by District Attorney Cooley is straightforward and provides a commonsense definition of body armor as 'a bulletproof vest, meaning any bulletproof material intended to provide ballistic and trauma protection for the wearer,'" said Paul M. Weber, president of the union representing L.A. cops, the Los Angeles Police Protective League.