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Lawmaker seeks to reduce some California drug crimes to misdemeanors

Posted on in Drug Crimes

A California state senator from San Francisco is seeking to give prosecutors the option to charge some drug crimes as a misdemeanor level offense. The proposal would not only reduce potential exposure to time behind bars for possession of drugs for personal use, but would also keep a felony off of a person's record, which can make it difficult for the person to later find a job.

Senator Mark Leno's proposal would not modify California's marijuana laws, as possession of a small amount of marijuana is already considered an infraction under state law. State law gives authorities the option to charge possession of methamphetamine for personal use as either a misdemeanor or felony offense. The new proposal seeks to expand that kind of discretion in cases involving allegations of possessing of small amounts of heroin, cocaine and other so-called "hard drugs."

Obviously, there is some opposition to modifying California's harsh drug possession laws. State Senator Jim Nielson believes that people who may possess small amounts of drugs may commit other crimes to later buy the drugs. He apparently wants to keep possession of small amounts of drugs as a felony level offense to punish suspects for speculative offenses that he believes may possibly happen at some later time.

Supporters of Leno's proposal decry that kind of speculation, pointing to the thirteen states and the District of Columbia as evidence that the stereotype that recreational drug use does not necessarily hold any water. The supporters say that those jurisdictions make possession of small amounts of controlled substances a misdemeanor-level offense and have not seen an increase in drug crimes, according to KABC-TV.

For now, possession of a small amount of cocaine or other specified controlled substances remains a felony offense in California, costing an estimated $160 million-money that could be diverted to other areas, such as rehabilitative services.

Drug charges can carry stiff penalties. Criminal defense lawyers aggressively challenge drug charges, but also can seek alternative sentencing or diversion options, seeking to avoid potential time behind bars for a person convicted of a felony drug crime.

Source: KABC-TV, "Hard drug possession charges may change in CA," Nannette Miranda, Feb. 27, 2013

  • Our form provides criminal defense for people accused of drug crimes in the Santa Cruz, California area. For more information, please visit the Santa Cruz drug possession page.

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