Assembly Considers New Drug Sentencing Bill
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Aired 6/13/13 on KPBS News.
Prosecutors would have the discretion to charge people arrested for simple drug possession with a misdemeanor under a bill making its way through the California Assembly.
California A bill that would give prosecutors the flexibility to charge drug possession as a misdemeanor is moving through the state assembly. Supporters call it common sense reform.
Possession of heroin or cocaine carries a mandatory felony charge in California. The bill would give prosecutors the option of reducing that charge to a misdemeanor.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia treat drug possession as a misdemeanor.
The California District Attorneys Association argues minimizing the consequences of addictive behavior doesn't make it less destructive. But Margaret Dooley-Samuli, senior policy advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego said the current system is a failure.
"If harsh penalties were going to solve our drug problems, we would be rid of them by now," she said. "Lengthy jail sentences are not a good use of limited public safety resources."
Dooley-Samuli said the bill would allow counties to reduce jail spending and invest in drug treatment.