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Sometimes it happens this way: I'm scratching out a plea on a case or revocation of one more dope defendant and the fear takes me. We are losing the "war on drugs." More than a decade ago, my father, a former prosecutor himself, told me that my job was to identify the truly bad actors and quarantine them from their prey. As to the rest? Keep them dogies rollin'. I'm not smart enough to know how to handle the drug problem but I can recognize what doesn't work and this is it. We cannot fill our prisons with dopers and allow the predators to roam free. In my view we shouldn't fill the prisons with dopers. And the small voice whispers,"If we did win the war on drugs what would you do all day?"
Random thoughts in response. When space is a problem, we all want to fill our prisons with violent offenders and not dopers. We have a mandated probation and treatment program for state jail possession cases. When they do not participate faithfully in treatment programs, what do you do? Sanctions with jail time, etc. should be employed. When violations continue, what then? One solution is to build more prisons. Perhaps the real solution (more money, again) is to have drug courts in every county. But it appears that drug courts are turning judges into glorified probation officers. I don't know the answer.
Glad to see I'm not alone. I know that drug use also means a lot more property crime; additionally, there is usually a correlation between drug use and violent/sexual/fraud crimes. I agree with Ken: if all alternative graduated sanctions have failed, what then? Many are the times I have looked at the defense lawyer and said, "There's nothing but prison left." Some probation violations are so blatant and willful that pen time is called for simply to vindicate the dignity of the sentencing court. I don't know the stats on drug court or SAFP success but if they showed that the programs are wildly successful, I imagine they would expand. Can compulsory drug treatment EVER be effective? I have long suspected as well that the drug problem has led to a concommitant and maybe necessary(?) perversion of fourth amendment law. Again, just a rant and no answers.
Our neighbor to the South has just legalized the possession of "small" amounts of marihuana, LSD, meth, cocaine, and heroin, following a trend in several South American countries. Many think that while this may free police resources for enforcement of trafficking laws, that the cartels will simply cash in on an increased number of consumers and use the new funds for more guns and bribes. One commentary says this is a poor tribute to the hundreds of Mexican police and army members who have lost their lives in the fight to save their country. What will the effect be on our border? This is the largest experiment of this type, the closest to home, that we have seen. May get interesting.
MEXICO CITY (AP) Mexico decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and heroin on Friday a move that prosecutors say makes sense even in the midst of the government's grueling battle against drug traffickers.
Prosecutors said the new law sets clear limits that keep Mexico's corruption-prone police from shaking down casual users and offers addicts free treatment to keep growing domestic drug use in check.
"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty," said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general's office.
The new law sets out maximum "personal use" amounts for drugs, also including LSD and methamphetamine. People detained with those quantities no longer face criminal prosecution.
[... snip ...]
Full AP story from USA Today
I too had hit the wall with sending drug dealers including college kids without records to prison. Last week I tried a 28 year old man who was providing marihauna to young girls, 13 and 15 year old. While manipulating and having sex multiple times every day with the 15 year old this Defendant who was 22 started molesting her 4 year old sister while everyone was asleep.The 4 yr old also watched them put brown stuff in a paper ,roll it up and smoke it. Afterwards she was told not to tell, "Its their secret" He threatened to kill the child's family if she ever told anyone what he was doing. After being confronted about stealing the Defendant moved out and picked up the cute wild little 13 year old and again had sex every way for about a month and half. He then gets arrested and neither girl saw him again until 4 years later.
The older sister mentioned at the dinner table that she thought she had seen the Defendant in jail. Now 8, the little sister outcryed. She goes to prison to visit her Father who I tried before a jury for deliver of Cocaine. He's doing a 35 year sentence. She outcried to him and he wrote me directly asking for my help because he couldn't do anything for her.
Last week he recieved 6-99 year sentences and 1 20 year sentence on the sexual assault plus 70,000 in fines. Had he not taken the stand and testified, showing his incredibly charasmatic manipulative personality I probably would have had a hung jury.
All of this was the result of a man using marihana on the weakest members in a small town. His sentence was stacked and he recieved 316 well deserved years!!!Only pray there are no more victims in Nebraska, Florida and Nevada where he had been hiding.
Drugs are very dangerous for our children!!!!!
I have been a drug prosecutor (almost exclusively) for about 5 years. The other 4 I have mostly prosecuted drug cases, along with anything else that landed on my desk. Drugs seem to be a victimless crime, until you start thinking of the neighbors who are burglarized and the children who are neglected and/or molested because of drugs. A few months ago, I indicted a "rolling pharmacist." He was pushing pills, along with crack and marihuana out of his vehicle. Turns out, he's also been molesting his OWN daughter for the past 5-6 years. (The sex crimes prosecutor in my office indicted him for that last month.) His only positive attribute (in my eyes) is that he confessed. So, his daughter will (most probably) be spared from having to testify.
You go Martha!
Full decriminalization will never happen here, IMO, so it's a waste of time talking about its merits/faults.
However, I have wondered from time to time whether we might get more bang for our buck by treating possession/use of smaller amounts of most drugs as a punishment enhancement rather than an offense in itself. (Not manufacture/sale, just possession.) Commit an offense that is related to drug possession/use, get hammered on punishment; possess the drug without committing other crimes, and you're free to go. It could be sort of like a DW finding--most weapons are legal to possess, but if you use them in connection with a crime, your punishment and probation/parole eligibility will be increased.
I'm not aware of any other place that does it like that, so I have little to go on, but it might have some potential ...
So are you suggesting a blood/urine test on suspects to see if they have drugs in their system and that would be proof of an enhancement? Otherwise, I'm not sure how you would tie in drugs to an offense other than say DWI. A DW finding is pretty easy to tie in because it is generally obvious that it was used or exhibited in the commission or flight.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't the feds use drug addiction as a point in the sentencing guidelines or does that only work in relation to gun crimes? I seem to recall that from a course with the feds once upon a time.
(CNN) -- Argentina's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday it is unconstitutional to punish an adult for private use of marijuana as long as it doesn't harm anyone else.
The unanimous ruling makes Argentina the second Latin American country in the past four days to allow personal use of a formerly illegal drug.
[... snip ...]
I agree with the comments about how drug users are usually involved in other criminal activities. Usually, they commit property crimes and petty thefts to get money to buy drugs. You do also find a large number of drug users that neglect or abuse their children. My jurisdiction is in the meth belt and we often see kids living in horrific conditions while the parents are spaced out or cooking dope in the kitchen.
Having said that, it is not uncommon to run into a defendant that has no criminal history. A defendant that does not commit property crimes and does not abuse any children. You put these people on probation and they don't stop using drugs. You amend their probation to send them to rehab, and they use drugs the week they get turned loose. Then you send them to prison. Then when they get out of prison they get caught again with a state jail felony amount of drugs. What do you do then? As a recently convicted felon, we generally send them straight back to prison.
It's hard to pick a solution that fits all cases. Sometimes you get a complete jerk who just happens to use drugs, and sometimes you get a recreational user who would never commit any other type of crime and is otherwise a model citizen.
I've known successful professionals who lead exemplary lives who just like to sneak off and smoke a joint now and then. OTOH, I've known professionals who lost everything they had because cocaine ate them alive.
I don't have any answers other than I usually give someone with a PCS<1 a chance at deferred with counseling if they have no history. If they make it, we both win.
I'm glad someone has introduced this topic.
We clearly are not going to win the War on Drugs, although we've created a multi-billion dollar bureaucracy.
I'd like to see California decriminalize and tax marijuana, so we could watch and see what happens to their economy. I've heard and read that marijuana is their largest cash crop.
Obviously, some drugs are horrible, and European countries have tried to register and legally dispense those which are terribly addictive.
Good luck to all of you who are criminal prosecutors, and doing the best you can.
I think the pedophiles in the examples above would use alcohol or other substances to groom their vicitms, if drugs weren't available.
Also, if we had taxes from drug users, we might actually be making money back from some of those who cost us all so much and now contribute nothing. (Pretty bleak outlook.)
Regarding the Mexican law, I foresee a horrible nightmare. The young think they're invulnerable, and what if kids go down there for Spring Break and try cocaine or meth or heroin, believing they can take it or leave it?
DENVER - A city panel in charge of overseeing marijuana possession crimes in Denver recommended on Wednesday that the fine for possession be set at $1.
If Denver's presiding judge accepts the recommendation from the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, the fine would be the lowest in the entire nation for marijuana possession.
The panel was created by Mayor John Hickenlooper in December 2007 after voters passed an ordinance that made it so adult marijuana possession is the city's "lowest law enforcement priority."
[... snip ...]
I can't believe that it's a serious thought that suddenly if mj is legal, dealers will start making their deals out in the open so that they can pay taxes. Not going to happen. I prosecute a lot of drug cases in a border town, and I can tell you that legal or not, 14 year olds looking for self-medication because of other issues are going to get hooked, ditch school to smoke pot all day every day, and generally throw their lives away--if they were going to while it was illegal, anyway. They will not decide to become tax paying entrepreneurs and set up businesses because it has been legalized. At least the fear that it is illegal will keep some away. And it's amazing how many people here run their own businesses (construction businesses, etc.) on cash only transactions--I'm sure the government sees very little of that taxable income.
Also, look at the horrific amounts of prescription drugs that are ending up passed around at our schools and in our DWI cases. All regulated, strictly, and handed out by well-meaning doctors. That alone should be the warning of what legal mj would look like.
What concerns me is the idea of so many college kids going to Mexico at any time because they can get what they want there legally, then get caught in the middle of a feud between gangs. Just because the government legalizes "personal use" amounts does not mean that the tug-of-war over the foreign markets will end.
I tried to find my stats on TDC but couldn't find them, but as I recall, only about a third of the TDC inmates are inside for a drug offense. I did find a Bureau of Justice Statistics Fact Sheet "Profile of Nonviolent Offenders Exiting State Prisons," 2004. I think the stats here are not much different from Texas' prisons.
I can't find my stats on TDC but as I recall, only about a third of the TDC inmates are inside for a drug offense. I did find a Bureau of Justice Statistics Fact Sheet "Profile of Nonviolent Offenders Exiting State Prisons," 2004. I think the stats here are not much different from Texas' prisons.
That Fact Sheet says that about a third of inmates leaving state prisons were convicted of drug offenses, and about a third were convicted of property crimes. Nearly 2/3's of all non-violent offenders leaving prison indicated they had used illegal drugs in the mo. prior to committing the offense they went to the joint for and about 40% reported using drugs at the time of the offense. About a third of all non-violent offenders had a history of arrests for violent crimes. About a fifth of all "non-violent" releasees were rearrested for a violent crime within 3 years of their discharge. More than 80% of those "non-violent" offenders released from prison have a prior conviction history.
Thus: we are not "filling up our prisons with drug offenders." Moreover, the vast majority of those who are there for a drug offense, are serious criminals, many of them the dreaded "Violent" criminals everyone agrees--even certain state legislators who think being "smart on crime" means letting more prisoners go free--should be locked up.
I tried to look up stats on drug use. It appears that drug use has bobbed up and down over the years, but I believe most observers feel that it has gone down considerably since 1980 or so, when the War on Drugs became a big deal. It's hard to say, because reporting of drug use changed in 1979, and its hard to compare pre-1979 stats with the later stats, but apparently drug use was much more prevalent in the 1970s than now.
The first study of the effectiveness of SAFE-P--when SAFE-P was very new--found that it was no better than no treatment at all. For some reason, the in-house version of SAFE-P used on TDC inmates before discharging was found to have a mild improvement on recidivism rates. So far as I know, no further studies of the effectiveness of SAFE-P have been done--perhaps because the lege likes to dream that treatment is the Silver Bullet.
But the fact that drug treatment is not super effective should not surprise anyone who has watched a smoker try to quit smoking. And like smokers, the more times a doper tries the more likely he is to quit.
The best policy is to not start using drugs. The fact that drugs are illegal, and that dopers are locked up and sent to rehab, and put on probation, and if they don't tow the line, go to prison, is a major reason a lot of people stay away from drugs. Moreover, law enforcement often ends up being a major allie with the non-doper members of a family in their efforts to turn a family member around. Pres. Clinton, I understand, credits law enforcement with saving his brother's life, for example, by not not standing still when he was caught with drugs.
I recall having a motion to revoke probation hearing on a coke head. The man had a serious cocaine problem, but he refused to agree to go to SAFE-P. His wife testified for him at the hearing, but seemed to have no answers when asked how she could keep him from using cocaine. The judge saw thru their defense, and sent him to SAFE-P. As soon as the judge ruled, I looked at his wife, who had taken the stand to plead that he not be sent to SAFE-P, and I am certain I saw real relief. We have no idea how often law enforcement's intervention is secretly applauded by those who love them, but I am certain it happens a lot more than we think.
Going after dopers and dope dealers may seem like a hopeless task sometimes, but I am convinced it is a major reason drug use is as low as it is. It is important work.
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