Getting caught with drugs and having to face a prison sentence is a situation that some California residents might not have to deal with for too much longer if a proposal makes its way through the legal process. The proposal would essentially reduce the severity of consequences for simple possession charges. One of the biggest changes is that the simple possession of any drug would be a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
San Diego's police chief and San Francisco's district attorney are two of the proposal's supporters. They are for the ballot this fall to include this type of measure. In order for the measure to be put on the ballot, around 500,000 signatures need to be collected. With the charges being misdemeanors, those convicted wouldn't have to worry about the conviction appearing on their record. Instead of a lengthy prison sentence, those convicted would have to do community service, be placed on probation or be sent to a substance abuse treatment center.
Keeping inmates in prison for simple drug possession charges costs voters approximately $207 million per year, so if a measure like this passes, it can save the state money. There are approximately 4,000 inmates behind bars now for simple possession.
The San Diego police chief isn't sure this type of policy would be effective. He says that clear markers on how much of a drug is for personal use would be necessary. He does agree with the theory that jail isn't for sick people, but it is for bad guys. Making simple possession a misdemeanor is the law in 13 other states, so California wouldn't be the first state to use this theory.
If you are facing drug charges now, the consequences are still severe. Understanding the charges against you and learning your options for answering these charges is vital to minimizing the risk of having to deal with consequences that are too harsh for your conviction.
Source: MintPress News, "CA Law Enforcement Proposes Softening Drug Laws" Katie Rucke, Jan. 31, 2014