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Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

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In November 2014, California voters decided that the state’s classification of some crimes as felonies was overly harsh and needed to be changed. The voters passed Proposition 47 (also known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act”) to reduce the penalties for certain drug and theft crimes.

There law changed the way these crimes are charged. Due to the change, those that have prior convictions for certain crimes are allowed to bring a motion before the court to have those felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors on their criminal record. Also, those persons currently serving a prison or jail sentence due to convictions for certain felony crimes can request the court in a formal motion to reduce their conviction to a misdemeanor and ask that their sentence be reduced or eliminated completely.

This new law has now been in effect for more than one year. Los Angeles County officials have determined that many persons who may qualify for reductions due to their prior crimes are not coming forth to take advantage of the benefits under this new law.

Two Task Forces for Two Goals

Clear Record Prop 47Under Prop 47, the deadline to apply for a reduction of a current or past criminal conviction is November 5, 2017; just three years after it became law. One of the goals of the law is to clean up the records of many people with non-violent drug and petty theft felonies.

If you have a felony on your record, you probably already know how difficult it can be to convince an employer to hire you. Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor is a major step toward getting your conviction expunged from your record, which can open up many employment and housing opportunities that you may not have had with a felony on your record.

With that in mind, Los Angeles County supervisors voted to create a task force of county officials from criminal justice and social service agencies. This group will determine how many people are eligible to reduce their convictions in Los Angeles County. They will form a plan to reach those individuals who have not yet applied. The goal is to find as many people as possible to ensure that a large and untapped workforce has an easier path to becoming productive members of society.

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SB 333 is a proposed law being sent to Governor Brown that seeks to increase the current penalties against those possessing common date rape drugs. The bill’s supporters say that an unintended consequence of Proposition 47 was that it reduced the penalty for those who carried date rape drugs with the intent to commit sexual assault. If passed, the bill would make it a felony to posses date rape drugs if you have the intent to commit rape or sexual assault.1

Proposition 47: A Reason to Pass SB 333

Prop 47 was a recent legislative effort that decreased penalties for non-violent drug offenses, including those possessing date rape drugs. What followed was the reclassification of many drug possession charges from felony offenses to misdemeanors.

Proponents of SB 333 think that Prop 47 left the government’s stance too weak against potential sexual predators who intend to use date rape drugs on victims. The legislature now seeks to close this loophole by allowing prosecutors to pursue felony charges against those arrested for possession of date rape drugs.

New Proposed Law Explained

date rape drugsSpecifically, if you’re found in possession of Rohypnol or ‘rufis’, GHB, or ketamine, and you have the intent to commit sexual assault, you can be charged with a felony.2 One problem with the proposed law’s policy is that some of these substances are used recreationally, thus making it more difficult to determine one’s actual motives. The prosecution would still have to be able to prove intent to commit sexual assault; however, prosecutors could use the new law to coerce you into accepting a plea deal even though you only intended to use such drug recreationally.

Violations of the proposed law would be punishable by 16 months to three years in prison.3 The new law is arguably duplicative considering that you can already be charged you with attempted sexual assault crimes (e.g. attempted rape or sexual assault), which carry harsher penalties.

If passed, the new law could be the first to erase the effects of Prop 47 and California’s efforts to reduce overly harsh punishments against non-violent drug offenders.

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The legalization of marijuana is a constantly debated issue in California. Possessing marijuana for medicinal purposes can now be legal if you are licensed by a physician, but this has created uncertainty when it comes to other marijuana laws in California.

One such law involves the transportation of marijuana, and a recently passed bill clarifies what is required to convict you of the crime of marijuana transportation.

Does Transportation of Marijuana Require Intent to Sell?

Marijuana TransportationIn 2013, Assembly Bill 721 passed, amending Health and Safety Code 11352 and 11379 to provide that “transports” means to transport for the purpose of selling a drug, not just carrying it around. However, this law excluded the transportation of marijuana, PCP and psilocybin mushrooms.

Assembly Bill 730 was recently passed into law and will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016. The bill will revise Health and Safety Code Sections 11360, 11379.5 and 11391 to require the intent to sell in order for you to be convicted of a felony for transporting drugs. This means that beginning Jan. 1, 2016, you cannot be convicted of felony transportation of a controlled substance, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, PCP or shrooms unless you had the intent to sell the drug.

Prior to this recent change in law, you could be charged with a felony for transportation of marijuana regardless if you had the intent to sell the drug. You could be charged with this crime simply for carrying a usable amount of marijuana and having the knowledge that you were carrying it. It did not matter if you were planning to use the drug for your personal use or how much of the drug you had on you.

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LEAD program diversionLaw Enforcement Assisted Diversion (or LEAD) is a growing pilot diversionary program originally implemented in Seattle and now being used by some California counties. Established in 2011, the program was developed as an innovative solution to drug- and prostitution-related crimes. Criminalization and imprisonment are increasingly seen as inappropriate responses for these non-violent, low-level crimes.

Between the years 1990 and 2008, over 85,000 bookings were made for drug offenses in Seattle alone.1 As a result, experimental diversionary initiatives such as LEAD have been enacted as possible alternatives.

LEAD, with private funding totaling $4 million, was a pilot experiment in which 203 voluntary participants were selected randomly over a period of four years. The program was offered to arrested people who:

  • were not carrying over 3 grams of illegal drugs,
  • had no history of violent crimes, and
  • were not involved in promoting prostitution or exploiting minors within an organized drug enterprise.2

What are Diversion Programs and What Makes LEAD Different?

If you are arrested for a drug possession charge, entering a diversion program may be in your best interest. These programs seek to more effectively reduce the negative social and individual effects which are connected with drugs, such as homelessness and disease. Rather than criminalize drug addiction, diversion programs use a “harm reduction” strategy in which placement in social programs replaces incarceration for those convicted of these crimes.3

There are two main types of diversionary programs: pre-booking and post-booking. A pre-booking program occurs before you are arrested or formally charged, while post-booking occurs after charges are filed.4

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A hallucinatory drug has been rising in popularity since the ban of bath salts. Reports say the drug, called Flakka, can cause users to experience super-human strength, euphoria and “excited delirium.” How popular is this high-powered drug? The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports a 780 percent jump in the number of Flakka cases reported across the country over the last three years.

What are the Effects of Flakka?

Effects of FlakkaFlakka, also known as gravel because of its crystal appearance, can be smoked, snorted, injected and even swallowed. The main ingredient of the drug is alpha-PVP, a variant of the same drug used to make bath salts.

According to reports, Flakka gives users an inexpensive, lengthy high. It works by causing a flood of dopamine, the feel-good hormone, to the brain and preventing the transmitters from being able to block the hormone. The drug can also cause the user to experience psychosis, adrenaline-fueled strength and dangerously high temperatures of 105 degrees or more.

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Since it passed in November, Proposition 47 has changed a lot more than just the sentences for some low-level, non-violent offenders. It also has changed how law enforcement officers view some crimes and how long some criminal offenders stay in prison, according to a recent report by the LA Times.

Prop 47 reduces some crimes from felonies and wobblers to misdemeanors, which significantly reduces the maximum penalties for these crimes. Prop 47 has already decreased prison and jail populations across the state.

Prop 47 Reduces Some Felony Crimes to Misdemeanor Offenses

Prop 47 ArrestsWhile the resentencing of felony and wobbler crimes to misdemeanor offenses has significantly reduced the number of offenders behind bars, the law has also reduced the number of people being arrested for narcotics, possession, and simple theft crimes. According to the LA Times, drug-related arrests by the LA County Sheriff’s Office have decreased by 30% since Prop 47 passed, and bookings have gone down about 23%.1

At least part of the reason for this decrease in arrests is that police officers are focusing on more serious crimes and putting less focus on arresting low-level offenders. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has instructed officers to continue to pursue drug offenders as they have in the past even though simple possession of a drug for personal use has in most circumstances become a misdemeanor offense. Now, police officers simply are issuing a citation to appear in court instead of arresting drug offenders and taking them to jail.

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**Update: After the passing of Proposition 47, a misdemeanor charge for personal possession of cocaine is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail.**

The federal Anti-Drug Use Act of 1986 created separate sentencing guidelines for crimes involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine. California adopted the same sentences a year later, resulting in crimes involving crack being sentenced 100 times harsher than crimes involving powder cocaine. Under the law, it takes one-tenth the amount of crack cocaine to trigger the same strict sentences as powder cocaine. 1 Possession%20of%20Drugs%20for%20Sale%202.jpg

In an effort to reduce severe prison overcrowding, California is rethinking overly harsh criminal sentencing, especially for nonviolent crimes such as drug offenses. The California State Senate recently gave initial approval to Senate Bill 1010, which would reduce penalties for possessing crack cocaine for sale so they would match the punishment for crimes involving powder cocaine. 2

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More than 46,000 federal drug offenders could be eligible for sentence reductions after the U.S. Sentencing Commission recently approved a plan to extend federal drug sentencing guidelines to current inmates. 1 Possession%20-%20Transportation%20of%20Drugs%20for%20Sale.jpg

Prisoners who are eligible for sentence reductions will not be released until November 2015, giving judges the time necessary to review candidates and allow prosecutors to object if there are concerns about any inmates. 2

The commission’s unanimous vote follows a decision made in April to amend sentencing guidelines in some federal drug cases involving non-violent drug offenders. Those new guidelines will now extend to thousands of inmates currently serving time in federal prison due to drug crime convictions. 3

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As has been reported by a number of media outlets nationally, L.A. County sheriff’s arrived at Justin Bieber’s Calabasas, Calif. home on Jan. 14 with 11 cop cars and a battering ram. Armed with a search warrant, Bieber’s home was being searched for evidence that could connect the pop star to the crime of felony vandalism.

Bieber’s Friend Arrested for Possession of Cocaine

Drug%20Crimes%201.jpgDuring the search of the home, the cops encountered cocaine in “plain sight,” which was later linked to one of Bieber’s house guests and entourage members, Lil Za. Lil Za, whose real name is Xavier Smith, was arrested for suspicion of possession of a controlled substance (HS 11350 (a)) and was being held in lieu of $20,000 bail.

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Have you ever heard young people asking “Have you seen Molly?” You should know that they aren’t talking about the girl next door.

“Molly” is a street name for MDMA, short for 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine. There are a lot of slang terms for MDMA. “Ecstasy” and “Molly” are the most common. Molly, however, is supposed to be free of adulterants, such as caffeine or methamphetamine. You might also hear “E,” “XTC,” “X,” “Adam,” “hug,” “beans,” “clarity,” “lover’s speed,” and “love drug.”

Molly aka Ecstasy is the “in” Club Drug

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.