Including drug offenders arrested with small amounts or for other crimes such as shoplifting, petty theft, disorderly conduct
To “divert low-level recreational users out of the criminal justice system and into health care system”
“Reducing strain in the courts” at presiding judge’s request
By Scott Alonso, Public Information Officer, Office of the District Attorney, Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton announced last week, misdemeanor filing considerations for the DA’s Office regarding . Originally initiated as a pilot, the considerations are now formal policy for the Office. The DA’s Office will no longer file charges against most people arrested or cited solely for the possession of small amounts of drugs. The idea is to divert low-level recreational users out of the criminal justice system and into the health care system with the goals of both reducing the strain in the courts and on law enforcement, and also by providing treatment options for the user.
Last year District Attorney Becton and Public Defender Robin Lipetzky were contacted by the presiding judge of the court who stressed the need to reduce the significant backlog of low-level, non-violent misdemeanors in the court system. The backlog of cases was slowing down court operations and proving to be an immense burden on the budgets of various law enforcement agencies and the courts.
Furthermore, there have been significant changes in the laws governing personal drug use that have changed the dynamics of prosecuting low-level drug cases. The aim of these considerations is to stop chronic patterns of arrest and to connect individuals to community based behavioral health services. For a first-time offender we will refer the person to health care services in our community. The policy allows the DA’s Office to focus our efforts on cases that may pose significant public safety concerns such as criminal street gangs, drug dealers, violent criminals, and cases involving firearms.
“When I took Office, I realized we had to change our perspective on filing cases, especially low-level drug cases. From my experience as a judge I saw first-hand how individuals were cycling through our system. Now as the District Attorney, I worked with several law enforcement partners throughout the county to build a plan and gain consensus on how best to proceed with these types of cases. We cannot prosecute ourselves out of this growing trend of low-level offenses being submitted to our Office for a filing decision,” said DA Becton.
Prosecutors will use their discretion on these low-level non-violent offenses to determine if criminal charges are appropriate. Pre-filing diversion is also available for individuals in lieu of a formal criminal complaint.
DA Becton stated, “As I do with all of my Office’s policies, I will periodically review this policy and work with my justice system colleagues to ensure its effectiveness and to modify it when necessary.”
In several situations, the policy may not apply. The exceptions include: the person has been arrested on three previous occasions in the past year for a misdemeanor drug offense, the theft is more than $300 in value, or the subject is on probation.
Misdemeanor Filing Considerations
FIRST-TIME AND STAND-ALONE OFFENSES
For the offenses below, do not file a case predicated upon these statutes if the individual is a first-time offender or this is a stand-alone charge. Consider use of CAPS, Infracting, or a Probation Violation as appropriate.
If an individual becomes a repeat offender, review all cases to include any previously unfiled incidents.
Note: For any of the below offenses, these considerations do not apply if:
- There are multiple violations (2 or more within a 12-month period)
- Theft cases: amount of stolen items is $300 or more
- Defendant is currently on probation
- Low net weight cases of controlled substances will generally not be filed unless there are three or more misdemeanor drug offenses or another qualifying exception within a 12-month period
The misdemeanor charges these considerations encompass are as follows:
STATUTE NAME OF STATUTE
BP 4060 Possession of Controlled Substance
BP 4140 Possession of Hypodermic or Syringe
HS 11357 Possession of Marijuana
HS 11364 Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
HS 11350 Possession of Controlled Substance
HS 11377 Possession of Controlled Substance
HS 11550 Under the Influence of Controlled Substance
PC 415 Disturbing the Peace
PC 459.5 Shoplifting
PC 466 Possession of Burglar Tools
PC 484 Petty Theft
PC 602 Trespass
PC 647(f) Disorderly Conduct
If an individual is already on Probation, consider electing to file a Probation Violation in Lieu of a new docket. Consult with your supervising DDA as appropriate.
Infract the below vehicle code offenses. Note: this does not apply to VC 14601.2 and VC 14601.5 offenses.
STATUTE NAME OF STATUTE ACTION
VC 12500 Unlicensed Driver INFRACT
VC 14601.1 Non-DUI Suspended or Revoked License INFRACT