Friday, September 6, 2013

Drug sentencing reform bill passes CA assembly

California counties could save $169 million a year under a new law that gives prosecutors flexibility to charge low-level, non-violent drug offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies.

S.B. 649, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, also gives judges discretion to deem a nonviolent drug possession offense to be either a misdemeanor or felony based on the nature of the offense and the defendant's record.

The state assembly passed the bill Wednesday, nearly a month after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a federal plan to stop seeking mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug crimes.
"We know we can reduce crime by offering low-level offenders rehabilitation and the opportunity to successfully reenter their communities," Leno said in a statement. "But we are currently doing the opposite. We give non-violent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they're incarcerated, and then release them back into the community with few job prospects or options to receive an education. S.B. 649 gives local governments the flexibility to choose reduced penalties so that they can reinvest in proven alternatives that benefit minor offenders and reserve limited jail space for serious criminals."

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