Articles Tagged with California drug crimes attorney

Under a “little-noticed provision” on Proposition 64, the voter-approved law legalizing recreational marijuana, California residents with marijuana convictions may be eligible to have those felonies and misdemeanors reduced or, in many cases, fully expunged off their criminal records, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. According to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, the city has proactively expunged 700 criminal records since the law came into effect at the beginning of the year and released 55 people incarcerated because of marijuana. The city still has 4,000 cases awaiting action by the courts.

For California residents who have been impacted the most severely by their marijuana convictions, so-called “high priority” convictions, the public defender’s office and district attorney’s office have moved aggressively and quickly to expunge the records. These include California residents who have marijuana convictions preventing them from gaining employment or limiting their access to government benefits or housing.

According to Summer Stephan, interim district attorney for San Diego, “We want to be pro-active. It’s clear to us that the law was written to allow this relief, and it’s important that we give full effect to the will of the people, especially for those who are most immediately affected.”

The problem, according to the San Diego public defender, is that there is no unified system for identifying marijuana-related convictions. The current database only goes back to the early 2000s, therefore, individuals with marijuana convictions in California may need to proactively petition the courts for an expungement. “It won’t happen overnight, but we are committed to seeking relief for everybody who is entitled,” said Angie Bartosik, chief deputy primary public defender. Bartosik noted that for those seeking relief under Proposition 64, there is a form available online at courts.ca.gov and, for most, filling out the form will be sufficient to expunge their records.

Effectively expunging all marijuana convictions is a statewide problem. Only 5,000 Californians have sought to have their marijuana convictions removed from their records, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Considering the fact that there were more than 500,000 people arrested for marijuana just between 2006 and 2015, this means that hundreds of thousands or more Californians are likely eligible. In San Francisco, where only 20 people have filed petitions for expungement, district attorney George Gascon announced that the city will proactively search and expunge all marijuana convictions dating back to 1975. The San Francisco DA estimates that this would include over 3,000 misdemeanors and almost 5,000 felony convictions. Continue reading

As Jeff Sessions creates chaos in the marijuana community with his rescission of the Obama policy of non-interference with marijuana-friendly state laws, U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman issued a statement backing Session’s new policy. He stated that the change “returns trust and local control to federal prosecutors” to enforce the Controlled Substance Act. Other U.S. Attorney Generals in states like Colorado have said their offices will not change their lenient approach to marijuana crimes.

What Exactly did Jeff Sessions do?

While marijuana currently remains illegal under federal law (the Controlled Substances Act), eight states including California, Oregon, and Colorado have legalized the drug, as has Washington, D.C, creating a conflict of law situation. 28 states currently permit some form of medical marijuana use.

President Obama’s Justice Department issued a policy in 2013 which generally barred federal law enforcement officials from interfering with marijuana sales in states where the drug is legal.  Sessions issued a memo in his capacity as Attorney General that will instead let federal prosecutors where marijuana is legal decide how aggressively to enforce longstanding federal law prohibiting it. The one-page memo states: “In deciding which marijuana activities to prosecute under these laws with the Department’s finite resources, prosecutors should follow the well-established principles that govern all federal prosecutions,” by considering the seriousness of the crime and its impact on the community.

These changes come just after the New Year, as legal weed shops opened in California.  California is expected to become the world’s largest market for legal recreational marijuana, and is overwhelmingly supported by American voters.

While Sessions’ Justice Department had been largely carrying out Trump’s top priorities until now, this marijuana policy strictly reflects his own personal feelings. Sessions has compared marijuana to being as harmful as heroin.

It is unknown yet how this policy will really affect California’s marijuana market and criminal charges.

Pot Has Nothing to do With San Diego’s Violent Crime

A recent survey (titled “The 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment”) of law enforcement and intelligence agencies conducted by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency says marijuana usage has been responsible for 0% of crime increases in San Diego. Rather, the report concluded that meth entering the country through the Southwest border remains the biggest threat to crime rates.  Meth smuggled from Mexico is predicted to increase due to the demand in the U.S. and lack of availability of it, compared to marijuana. Continue reading

Thousands of people convicted of marijuana crimes in California have asked to get their records reduced since the state legalized recreational pot. Peddling pot, or in some cases, just the possession over a threshold amount, can be a felony that will mess up your life forever and keep you from getting a job.

The passage of Proposition 64 last year allows for those who are 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of weed, as well as grow up to six plants for personal use. In other words, it made pot “legal” to remove the stigma of a criminal conviction. A lesser-known provision of the law also allows those convicted of marijuana charges to wipe their rap sheets clean and offers hope for people with past convictions who are seeking work or loans.  The provision allows for those convicted of marijuana crimes to reduce their felonies to small infractions. However, prosecutors have the discretion to not support a reduction should someone have a major felony, such as murder, on their record.

While it is hard to say how many people have benefitted, it is estimated that over 2,500 requests were filed to reduce convictions or sentences, according to partial state figures. San Diego County specifically, has led the charge with the most number of petitions reported and the reduced sentences or convictions in 400 cases.

Reducing Your Felony Conviction

Some defendants in California have always had the option to reduce their convicted felonies to misdemeanors. In the case of Prop. 64, those convicted of marijuana crimes can have their felonies reduced to infringements.

Under California Penal Code § 17(b), felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors if:

  • You are convicted to wobbler crimes such as felonies; and
  • Are sentenced to and completed felony probation for the offense.

A judge can take into consideration a multitude of factors when deciding whether to reduce a crime, such as the nature of the offense, the circumstances/facts, your compliance with your probation terms, your criminal history, and your personal history.

Reductions are different from expungements. Expungements close your records and seal them and makes it so you were never convicted. You are not eligible for expungements if you are currently charged with a criminal offense.     Continue reading

Earlier this year, San Diego police arrested dozens of people believed to be amongst North County San Diego’s biggest criminal gun and drug dealers in a massive takedown. In total, 55 men and women were charged in 10 federal indictments that allege heroin and methamphetamine trafficking, along with illegal gun possession, money laundering, robbery, theft, assault, and burglary. By March 1st, 46 out of the 55 suspects were in custody.

The arrest was part of a year-long investigation involving wiretaps, surveillance, and 150 cops.  Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson says many of the defendants are connected to drug traffickers in Tijuana (most likely the Sinaloa cartel). Mexican drug cartels then used San Diego gang member as distributors of their heroin.

It is reported that eight defendants currently remain at large, two of which are believed to have fled to Mexico. One of them is Yadira “Pini” Villalvazo, who prosecutors identified as the leader Tijuana operation, and imported and distributed heroin in North County to send tens of thousands of dollars back to Mexico. Authorities said the investigation also targeted meth traffickers.

Heroin Laws in California

The possession and sale of heroin is still a crime in California even though there have been a couple reforms that would steer the penalties for first-time offenders towards rehabilitation instead of jail. In 2001, California voters passed Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act (SACPA). SACPA mandates that those arrested for non-violent drug offenses be offered the opportunity for treatment instead of jail time. Prop 47, passed in 2015, made possession of heroin a misdemeanor for first time offenders and many other cases. Penalties can include a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

However, it is a felony if you have a prior conviction for possession or if you also have a record for other serious felonies such as manslaughter or a sex crime. See CA Health and Safety Code § 11350. Possession for the sale of heroin remains a felony no matter what, and it is punishable by three to five years of imprisonment and a fine up to $20,000. See CA Health and Safety Code § 11351. You are not eligible for the drug diversion program if you have this conviction.

Selling or transporting heroin is probably the most serious of drug crimes, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The number of years you face depends on the amount you are convicted of selling or transporting. Continue reading

Keeping up with the momentum of Oregon, Alaska, Washington D.C. and Florida this past election year, Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D Rancho Cordova) recently proposed Assembly Bill 266, which would legalize recreational marijuana in California.  The bill would set up a statewide regulatory scheme on marijuana while allowing local jurisdictions to regulate the licensing of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.  Marijuana policy reform in California has been attempted multiple times throughout the years.  This bill was backed by the California Police Chiefs Association last year, and will be the second time it will be proposed.

Criminal Laws on Marijuana

While the proposed bill, if passed, would legalize marijuana to an extent, the possession of marijuana is currently decriminalized in California to some degree, with possession of up to 28.5 grams considered an infraction with a fine of $100.  Possession of over 28.5 grams is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment and a maximum fine of $500.  See California Health & Safety Code § 11357.  However, possession with intent to distribute any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by 16-36 months imprisonment. See California Health & Safety Code § 11359 and § 1170(h). The actual sale or delivery of any amount of marijuana is a felony punishable by 2-4 years imprisonment. See California Health & Safety Code § 1136.