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Reduced drug sentences possible for possession

California is considering reduced sentences for those who are convicted of possessing drugs for personal use. Legislation passed by the California Senate on Aug. 26 would change the meaning of "transporting" a drug to mean transporting it in order to sell it. The new definition means that someone who might face additional drug charges for transportation would only be charged with possession if they carried an amount under the threshold. Previously, transporting meant that a person could be charged for even walking down the street, no matter the amount of drugs they possessed.

Anyone who is dealing drugs would still face the same penalties. The legislation, AB 721, ensures that someone with a low threshold of drugs will be charged accordingly and not face additional charges and penalties leading to longer sentences. The Senate approved the legislation by a vote of 24 to 15. The Assembly will conduct a concurrence vote, and if it passes, Gov. Jerry Brown will either sign or veto it.

Some Republicans felt the bill was too easy on crime and argued that it sent the wrong message to those who were leaning toward criminal behavior. On the other hand, a Democrat noted that the bill could help reduce the problem of overcrowding in California penitentiaries. He claimed that drug possession would still be punished, but users would face shorter prison sentences, such as two to three years, as opposed to five to 15 years for transportation.

With the problem of overcrowding in prisons in California, the Senate has decided to take action to fight the issue. In a climate that seems to be easing up on simple drug possession charges, a criminal defense attorney may negotiate a reduced sentence for someone convicted of drug possession.

Source: San Luis Obispo Tribune, "Capitol Alert: California Senate approves change to drug law ", Laurel Rosenhall , August 26, 2013

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