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California may reduce some drug felony charges to misdemeanors

California is considering a ballot measure that will change some nonviolent felonies into misdemeanors. Proponents of the bill say Proposition 47 will save up to $200 million per year, and that money can go toward programs that will deal with issues such as truancy, mental health, substance abuse and victim services.

The proposed Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act has been authored by a retired district attorney and a retired San Diego police chief. The crimes it addresses include property crimes such as shoplifting and writing bad checks valued under $950. Additional violations like possession of drugs for personal use including heroin and methamphetamine would also be included. Any previous convictions for some violent and sexual crimes including murder would make the law not applicable.

Supporters of the measure want to push individuals convicted of drug offenses toward treatment rather than prison. Officials also hope that if the measure passes, overcrowding in California prisons will decrease. In addition, individuals with drug and mental health issues may get the help they need.

The election is set for Nov. 4. If the election is successful, many individuals who are detained for possession of small amounts of drugs will face only misdemeanors.

Whether or not the bill passes, an individual who is charged for drug possession may wish to work with an attorney. If the individual has not committed any of the serious violent crimes that disqualifies them, they may only face a misdemeanor. However, if the individual has been convicted of attempted murder or a number of other violent crimes, the charge may still be a felony. An attorney may work with the individual to decide on the best approach to their defense.

Source: UT San Diego, "Should drug possession be less illegal?", Kristina Davis, October 04, 2014

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