Houman Fakhimi

Riverside Drug Crime Sentences Could Decrease With SB1506

Riverside drug crime penalties could ease somewhat if a new program is approved that would alter the charges for possession of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Our Riverside drug crime attorneys are hoping this measure continues to gain steam. Riverside Trial Attorney Houman Fakhimi is in agreement with those on the Senate Public Safety Committee who voted 4-2 in favor of SB1506: Longer incarcerations don't reduce recidivism or improve public safety. In fact, they only cost taxpayer's in the long-term - not only because incarceration is expensive, but because while these individuals are locked up, their families and children often rely on public assistance for financial support.

By and large, those who are charged with possession of these drugs are not dealers, but rather individuals with a substance abuse problem for which they need intervention to recover. Most inmates in prison aren't likely to get that help. They may stay clean on the inside because they have no choice. But once they are out - and most do eventually get out - they are released back into the same environment with the same influences and no resources to help them cope. What's more, with a felony on their record, securing employment and starting over is that much more difficult.

SB1506 is sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno from San Francisco. He is the same lawmaker behind the push to downgrade possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction, similar to a traffic ticket.

Law enforcement agencies, unsurprisingly, are critical of the measure. However, our Riverside criminal defense attorneys would surmise that this has a lot to do with the the fact that potentially stiff sentences on drug charges gave police leverage with suspects to cooperate with them, making their jobs easier - not necessarily because it had any positive impact on public safety.

If California passes this law, it will come on the heels of 13 other state that have passed similar legislation.

Still, it would behoove voters to voice their support of SB1506 to lawmakers. In Florida recently, the governor there vetoed a similar law - passed and overwhelmingly supported by both Republican and Democratic legislators. That bill would have allowed those sentenced for non-violent drug crimes to enter treatment after serving 50 percent of their sentences. The Florida governor cited the broken-record argument of wanting to be tough on crime - despite the continuously mounting evidence that long sentences do nothing to deter crime.

This issue is especially critical in California, which last year drew the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court for overcrowding. In fact, justices ruled that the state had an obligation to reduce the populations within its 33 prisons. Starting last October, the state had to begin a public safety realignment plan to start reducing the total prison population by 37,000, from an estimated 156,000 total.

SB1506 is a common sense way to do that, without compromising public safety.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are charged with a crime. Protecting your rights and setting up an aggressive defense at the beginning stages is critical in defending against criminal charges.