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California Drug Possession & Alternative Sentencing Options

Any criminal defense attorney would agree that in America, the drug problem is huge.  Today, jails and prisons are overcrowded across the nation as America’s War on Drugs continues.  However, in recent months lawmakers, advocacy groups and the general public have realized that placing offenders guilty of non-violent drug crimes in prison and jail has resulted in negative repercussions.  Because of this, California and numerous other states have begun to reconsider the harsh punishment handed down to those less serious offenders.  As a result, there are various alternative sentencing options which individuals may be eligible for when charged with specified drug crimes.

In Los Angeles, marketing of illegal drugs is an especially profitable industry.  However, there is no question that illegal drug manufacturing and distributing leads to more serious criminal activity.  Drug abusers not only commit robbery and even murder in their quest to obtain illegal narcotics and other substances, lives are destroyed every day because of addiction.

The good news in all of this is that California has taken the necessary steps to change the policies which have long been in place regarding certain drug crimes.  In the past, lawmakers, police, and prosecutors were focused on one thing – making those who allegedly committed a drug crime, regardless of its seriousness, pay in the form of jail/prison time, steep fines, and other harsh penalties.  Now, many of the changes that have been made focus on helping those with drug addiction and/or abuse problems get the help they need to get back on a positive path, rather than punishment.  For those who qualify, Los Angeles County now offers alternative sentencing options for some drug offenses.

Alternative sentencing options make it possible for some offenders to avoid jail or prison time.  For example, someone arrested for possession of a controlled substance may be eligible to participate in a drug diversion program.  In some situations, an individual may be able to avoid a criminal conviction altogether by participating in these programs.  Essentially, drug offenders are able to get help for substance abuse issues while staying out of jail.

In 2000, Proposition 36 was singed into law.  Under this law, non-violent first- and second-time offenders are generally required to participate in a court-approved drug treatment program.

Another option available to certain offenders is deferred entry of judgment.  This diversionary option makes it possible for those who are eligible to avoid a criminal conviction and remain out of jail/prison by completing a drug education/treatment program.  In this program, successful completion will result in the judge dismissing the charges.  The criminal charge against the individual is suspended for the period of time the person is completing the program.

There are many factors which are considered in determining whether an individual will qualify for alternative sentencing options, including prior criminal record and the type of drug charge.  An experienced Los Angeles drug crimes attorney can review your case and help determine whether you may be eligible to avoid harsh criminal penalties by participating in a drug diversion program.