Narcotics Possession — Is the Legal System Too Tough?

Critics of our legal system claim that too many people are put in prison for too long for nonviolent crimes, such as possession of narcotics. Until recently, simple possession of heroin was classified as a felony in California, punishable by a year or more in state prison and a maximum fine of $20,000.

In November 2014, however, California voters passed the Proposition 47 initiative, downgrading simple possession of narcotics to a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to one year in county jail for defendants who are not registered sex offenders and do not have convictions on their records for certain violent crimes, and for specific sex and gun crimes. The reduction in sentence does not apply to possession of larger amounts or sales of narcotics.

Proposition 47 reduced 6 different low-level, nonviolent crimes to misdemeanors, a measure that is expected to save up to $200 million a year in prison costs. The savings is slotted to go into substance abuse, truancy, mental health, and victim services programs.

This initiative effectively put an end to the “tough on crime” experiment begun in 1994 with the three-strikes law, under which approximately 3,700 people were serving life sentences for crimes that were neither violent nor serious, according to an article in  The Economist. Dozens of states subsequently enacted their own versions of the three strikes law, which resulted in a U.S. prison population greater than 2.4 million by 2014.

Proposition 47 triggered releases for hundreds of inmates and shortened sentences for thousands more.

Not surprisingly, prosecutors are unhappy with Proposition 47, because it creates new problems in the justice system. Reducing felony charges for possession of narcotics to misdemeanor charges strips away the incentive for offenders to accept drug rehab as an alternative to jail. There is no room in county jails for those charged with lesser offenses, and defendants charged with possession of narcotics are out of jail within hours. The leverage that could get them into rehab is gone as a result.

Common drug violations, such as possession of narcotics, account for approximately one-quarter of all crimes. Approximately 40,000 inmates serving felony sentences became eligible for reduced sentencing when Proposition 47 was approved.

Los Angeles Drug Crimes Lawyer

If you have been charged with possession of narcotics or another drug crime in the Los Angeles area, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Possession of narcotics may have been reduced to a misdemeanor, but you still face the possibility of jail time, fines, and a criminal conviction on your record.

At the Law Offices of Omar Gastelum & Associates, PLC, our drug crime attorneys will challenge the allegations against you, look for any flaws in the prosecution’s case, and work hard toward the most favorable outcome. Contact us today for a consultation. You can rely on outstanding drug crime defense with our firm.