There is a California law that allows ex-felons to be sent to the county jail when found using drugs while on parole. However, it was found to violate a voter-approved right to drug treatment and the court has ruled in its favor that it is in fact a violation.
In 2011, the law was approved when Governor Jerry Brown was attempting to lower the population of the prisons. He placed an emphasis on rehabilitation programs and local custody as opposed to incarceration.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal, located in Santa Ana, made the decision on Tuesday. However, it does not affect the “realignment law???, which will send lower-level felons to a county jail instead of a state prison. If the ruling stands, it has the ability to overturn one portion of the law that would allow former inmates to go back to jail for using drugs.
Proposition 36 currently allows nonviolent drug offenders to go into treatment instead of confinement unless they pose a threat to the public. This means that those who have not committed sex or violent crimes are placed on probation instead of parole, which changes the way their cases are handled moving forward. Non-violent drug offenses eligible for prop 36 are HS 11350 possession of a controlled substance, HS 11357 possession of one ounce or less of Marijuana, HS 11550 being under the influence of a controlled substance, as well as some others.
If Proposition 36 is to be amended, it must be done with both houses of Legislature with a two-thirds vote. This is not something that can be done easily and would require a vote to be scheduled.
The Legislature cannot simply change the coverage of the proposition overnight. If the ruling is made, it could affect hundreds of people. There are some offenders that could be released because of changing the terms and others who are already not being jailed because of what Prop. 36 means.
There are also people who have served their jail terms, which included going back after being caught with drugs during their probation. These individuals may have served additional 60 and 90-day sentences in jail because of the laws at the time.
Recent statistics show that approximately 66 percent of parolees in California will return to prison within three years of their release. Some of this will be for a new criminal conviction while others will be an administrative or technical violation. Using drugs while on parole would qualify as the latter and this country for approximately 39 percent of the individuals who return to jail.
Proposition 36 is not easily overturned because of how it can impact the current prison system. The law was in place for a reason in order to prevent overcrowding. However, those who are found with possession of drugs should be able to seek help from a drug treatment facility, assuming they are not in for a sexual or violent crime.
Those facing criminal charges for drug offenses may benefit by speaking with a skilled lawyer about their case. Southern California defendants can call to obtain a free case evaluation from drug crime defense attorney Randy Collins today.