April 11, 2009 By Wallin & Klarich

Judge Reverses 19-Year Sentence and Gives Criminal Defendant Drug Diversion Program On Appeal by Criminal Defense Attorney

Chauncey Lee Harris was convicted in San Diego Superior Court of transportation of a controlled substance and possession of narcotics paraphernalia in San Diego. The jury in the case specifically made a finding that the transportation of the controlled substance was for personal use. The court also made a finding that Harris had suffered 7 prior prison terms. The judge sentenced Harris to 19 years in State Prison.

In court to appeal the convictions in California against him, Harris argued that the Judge imposed an unauthorized sentence by sending him to prison instead of granting him probation under proposition 36. This is due to the fact that the jury found that the transportation of the controlled substance was for his personal use, rather than for purposes of sale. If the Jury had found that he transported the drugs for sale, Harris would have been ineligible for proposition 36. Proposition 36, also known as the ‘Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000,” took effect in July of 2001.

It basically amended state law to create an alternative sentencing scheme for persons convicted of nonviolent drug offenses in California and REQUIRES that qualifying offenders receive probation, which is conditioned upon participation in, and successful completion of, a suitable drug treatment program. Harris’ basic argument to the Appeals court was that he was eligible for proposition 36 and the judge’s decision to sentence him to 19 years in prison was unlawful.

In the Appeals Court the district attorney argued that the judge was not bound by the jury’s finding that the transportation was for personal use rather than sale because different standards of proof apply to the jury at trial and the judge at sentencing. It was argued that although the jury wasn’t convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Harris transported the drugs for sale, the judge only had to find that he possessed them for sale by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lower standard.

While the Appeals Court agreed that generally the jury’s finding on personal use would not prevent the court from re-determining the personal use issue for Proposition 36 purposes, the court held that based on the particular facts of this case, they would not overrule the jury’s finding of transportation for personal use. As a result, Harris’ 19-year prison sentence for his California drug crime was overturned and he was released from custody on probation, and ordered to enter a drug treatment program.

This case highlights just how important it is to hire a skilled California criminal defense attorney at Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible after you are arrested to ensure the best outcome in your case. If you have any questions about drug diversion programs, immediately call Wallin and Klarich at 1-888-280-6839, or visit our website at www.wklaw.com.

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