Criminal Defense in Orange County

How Prop 47 is Affecting Drug Courts

Last year, California voters passed Proposition 47—a new law that would reduce numerous, non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The money saved by reducing the number of incarcerations now go to community and health programs. Less than six months since the law's passing, Prop 47 has already had a dramatic effect all over California, but nowhere are the changes more evident than in drug court.

Previously, when a person was arrested for drug possession in California—formerly a felony—they were given the opportunity to be seen in drug court. In drug court, those charged had two options: either serve their time, or enter drug treatment. However, this has changed. Now that drug possession is a misdemeanor, those charged are no longer compelled to avoid prison time. The new, lighter penalties have resulted in what is being called a troubling decline in drug court attendance.

According to a new KPCC report, before Prop 47, Orange County would handle between 50 to 80 applications for drug court every month. Now that Prop 47 has taken effect, the same court has received just a dozen applications in three months. The dramatic decrease has many officials worried that scores of Californians who could really benefit from substance abuse treatment are now no longer in a position to be compelled to receive it.

Judge Matt Anderson—whose court experienced those dramatic, three-month statistics—spoke to KPCC: "The number of people being evaluated for the program is dropping," he says. "The effect of it is that people are not getting the treatment that they otherwise could get."

Still Time to Adjust

Despite this new, alarming trend, officials and experts are already considering options to that will both preserve Prop 47's reform, but also bolster drug court attendance. Mark De Wit, a former public defender, also spoke to KPCC and said that revising drug court eligibility is one way to possibly make this happen. Loyola Law Professor Eric Miller also told KPCC that, while unlikely, making more serious offenders eligible for drug court could also work. He adds, however, that the current court system is not taking measures to identify which other offenders drug court could hold the most promise for.

Officers of the court and experts are not the only ones already considering changes to save drug courts in California. KPCC also spoke to the L.A. County's District Attorney's Office, who revealed that they are already working on altering drug court criteria to more effectively address the changes Prop 47 has made.

If you or a loved has been charged with a crime, then we urge you contact The Law Office of Barney B. Gibbs today. Attorney Gibbs has had more than 1,100 of his cases dismissed on his clients' behalf and he is ready to bring his unparalleled insight and advocacy to you and your case today.

Put your case in the hands of an Orange County criminal defense lawyer you can trust. Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation.