Alternative Sentencing Options & Drug Possession Charges

America's War on Drugs has led to a significant increase in jail and prison populations throughout the nation. As advocacy groups, lawmakers, and the general public have seen the negative repercussions that come with arresting and incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, many states – including California – have begun to rethink harsh drug policies. As a result, eligible individuals who are charged with certain drug crimes may have the opportunity to obtain alternative sentencing options in lieu of the typical, and severe, criminal penalties in place.

There is no question that America has a problem with drugs. From illegal street narcotics to prescription medications, American consumers comprise the bulk of the global drug market. Illegal drugs are a profitable industry, especially in Los Angeles. As profitable as they may be, however, they are also immensely destructive and a large source of crime and criminal activity. Personal lives can – and frequently are – shattered by drug abuse, and such dependency can lead to problems with the law.

As the nation continues to debate the efficacy and costs of prosecuting and jailing drug offenders, California has already taken steps to change drug policies. In many instances, these changes are aimed at helping individuals charged with drug crimes obtain the help they need, rather than simply punishing them with imprisonment. In fact, Los Angeles County offers alternative sentencing options to qualifying individuals accused of certain drug crimes.

Protect Your Freedom

Alternative sentencing options are typically available for lesser drug charges – including possession charges such as HS 11350. More serious drug crimes are handled more aggressively by prosecutors and often pose mandatory terms of imprisonment. For possession allegations, though, certain individuals may be able to participate in various drug diversion programs. These programs are designed to keep nonviolent drug offenders out of jail and prison and to help them obtain help for their problems with substance abuse. In certain cases, they may also allow defendants to avoid a criminal conviction.

Proposition 36, which was signed into law in 2000, is a diversion program available to certain defendants. Essentially, Prop 36 will offer eligible individuals the chance to participate in court-approved drug treatment programs rather than serve terms of imprisonment. When these programs are completed and all terms have been met, drug crime charges can be dismissed. Prop 36 usually requires first and second time nonviolent drug offenders to participate in drug treatment programs.

Deferred entry of judgment is another diversionary option that nonviolent drug offenders can use to obtain drug education, protect their freedom, and avoid a criminal conviction. When granted a deferred entry of judgment, qualifying defendants will have their criminal charge and case suspended while they complete a drug treatment program. Upon completion of the program, a judge will dismiss the charges.

Understanding Where You Stand

Although alternative sentencing options for nonviolent drug crimes can allow eligible individuals to protect their freedoms and futures, these options are not always available to everyone. In fact, there are a number of eligibility requirements that defendants must meet in order to quality for some type of drug diversion program. Commonly, eligibility will depend on the type of drug charge involved and an individual's criminal record. As there are many variables in these types of cases and because each client is different, our firm encourages you to discuss your matter personally with a Los Angeles criminal attorney from our firm.

If you or your loved one has been charged with possession of a controlled substance – or any other type of drug crime – allow Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP to explain your options for alternative sentencing and how our firm can help protect your future.