The United States is notoriously tough on those that have been convicted of drug crimes. Traditionally, even possession of small amounts of seemingly minor drugs, such as marijuana, can land people in jail. California has thankfully taken some steps to lighten drug crime penalties. While recent legislation does not prevent all offenders from facing extensive jail time and fines, there are alternative sentencing options that can apply in some cases.
Do I have to go to jail for my drug crime conviction?
In general, someone who has been accused of a non-violent drug crime is not considered to be a danger to the public. This recognition has allowed for additional sentencing options for the court to select from when punishing a convicted drug crime offender.
Alternatives to traditional sentencing include:
- Proposition 36: This allows first or second-time nonviolent drug offenders to plead guilty in order to enroll in a drug diversion and substance abuse court instead of going to jail. Following this step, a probationary period will apply that involves participating in an outpatient program. If this is completed, the charges can be dismissed.
- Penal Code 1000: First-time drug offenders that complete a four-month substance abuse class and are not arrested for another drug crime can plead guilty and avoid jail time. Any sentencing will be deferred for 18-months. At the end of this time, the accused must prove that they have paid related fines, completed the requirements of the program, and submit to drug testing. If all steps are followed, the charges can be dismissed.
- Drug Courts: This is an option meant to clear an offender of an addiction and repeat offenses by being monitored as they complete substance abuse treatment. Any time they are found using drugs or when they are cited for infractions, sanctions will be enacted.
- Home detention: Some lower level and first-time drug convictions may be sentenced in their homes if jails in the county too crowded. These people will be monitored with an electronic monitoring device that will alert law enforcement if they break the terms of their release. The time spent in home detention will count as jail time.
While most sentencing is aimed at preventing first-time offenders from finding themselves in the court again, it is important to know that just by having charges dismissed does not mean they will no longer affect you. Any subsequent drug arrests that occur after charges have been dismissed will count as a second charge and the accused will face penalties accordingly.
If you have questions about your case and alternative sentencing options, contact Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP for a free case review.