Drug crimes can range in severity and scope. From marijuana possession to interstate drug trafficking, the umbrella term "drug crime" casts a large shadow. For those accused of drug crimes, alternative sentencing options may provide the opportunity to avoid traditional forms of punishment and even avoid convictions. Which individuals will qualify and benefit from alternatives is dependent on a number of factors, including the background of the accused and willingness to seek help, as well as the defensibility of the case itself.
Since the United States launched its notorious "War on Drugs," millions of non-violent drug offenders have been trapped within the criminal justice system. In the years the policy has been in place, it has become clear that a focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation is ineffective, costly, and inhumane. Such policies have resulted in an overburdened system, a thinning of precious resources, and high rates of recidivism - the term used to describe a convicted offender's return to incarceration - which have in turn caused jail and prison populations throughout the nation to swell to unsustainable proportions. In California, our ever-increasing jail and prison populations still remain a tremendous cause for concern.
In response to these troubling circumstances, many jurisdictions have begun to rethink and rework ineffective drug crime policies. This shift toward rehabilitation over strict punishment is gaining widespread, bipartisan support for its fiscal and humanitarian benefits. In fact, earlier this year U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced his support for changing drug crime policies that are, in his words, "inefficient and unsustainable."
While the financial impact of this shift away from Draconian policy is politically astute, many also believe that it is simply the right thing to do. For one, eliminating harsh sentencing standards for low-level offenses is generally accepted as more fair. As drug crime convictions are also symptomatic of larger systemic problems related to wealth inequality, lack of opportunity, and family struggles resulting in alcoholism and drug abuse, shifting our system's focus on addressing the underlying issues can also help provide individuals with the help they need to change their lives and the lives of their loved ones for the better.
Exploring Your Options
All of us, to one degree or another, are crisis-motivated. For some, an arrest is unwarranted and a good lawyer should fix the problem without delay. But sometimes, regardless of the truth of the allegation, on the way to protecting you from a conviction, a lawyer can assist a client in making positive changes in his / her life that can result in the bad days being gone for good. Sometimes an arrest is the best thing that can happen to you.
What does all this mean to the individual who has just been arrested and charged with a drug crime? For one, it means that perhaps one day harsh, Draconian sentencing may be a thing of the past. It does not mean, however, that convictions are still without their penalties or that these alternative sentencing options are automatically granted to everyone. It is vitally important to explore your eligibility with an experienced, creative and effective Orange County drug crime lawyer who understands the complexities of these cases and those accused.
While all cases are unique, the courts themselves have set up their own means of handling what they view as appropriate cases, where individuals may be able to pursue alternative sentencing options in lieu of traditional penalties such as jail time. These options may include:
- Drug rehabilitation and treatment programs
- Deferred entry of judgment (CPC 1000)
- Prop 36 drug diversion (CPC 1210)
- Drug court
In some cases, these alternative options can allow individuals to avoid imprisonment and convictions while obtaining drug education and counseling. With deferred entry of judgment, for example, eligible individuals who successfully complete the treatment program will have their charges dismissed. But the possibilities are endless. We are only limited by our imagination.
Of course, all situations are unique and a determination of your eligibility to pursue these alternatives should be made only by an experienced legal professional. At the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman, Attorney Jacqueline Goodman is prepared to guide you personally through your legal and personal journey.
Learn more about your options and how Ms. Goodman can help by completing a free case evaluation form or calling (714) 733-1737.