On September 24, 2020, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton announced a new policy for handling certain misdemeanor offenses. The Office will no longer prosecute individuals arrested or cited for some low-level, non-violent crimes, including possession of small amounts of drugs.
Becton initially piloted the misdemeanor considerations in 2019 when the court's presiding judge contacted her and Public Defender Robin Lipetzky about the significant number of misdemeanor cases needing to be processed. The excess of low-level, non-violent misdemeanors was straining resources of law enforcement agencies and the court. To determine the most effective way to address the issue, Becton worked with several officials.
Under the now official policy, prosecutors will decide whether to file charges against those arrested for specific misdemeanors.
Stopping the Cycle of Arrests
In addition to freeing up law enforcement and court resources, the new policy also aims to help those suffering from drug addiction get the help they need. Rather than punish individuals, the system will focus on rehabilitating them. First-time offenders will be connected to community health resources that may help them manage their substance abuse problems.
Down the line, the changes in the prosecution policy may be significant for drug charges overall, as the goal is to rehabilitate and help people who may be addicted to drugs. The East Bay Times reported that after the pilot program was launched, there was a reduction in misdemeanor drug crime charges. However, because the policy is still developing, it may be some time before the long-term advantages are apparent and whether it may be applied to sales and trafficking charges. In the press release, Becton stated that she would continually review the policy and "modify it when necessary."
The new filing considerations apply not just to drug possession matters, but also to other low-level, non-violent misdemeanors, including:
- Possession of hypodermic syringe
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Possession of marijuana
- Under the influence of controlled substance
- Disturbing the peace
- Possession of burglar tools
- Petty theft
- Disorderly conduct
Prosecutors will still file charges for low-level misdemeanors if any of the following apply:
- The defendant has 2 violations within 12 months,
- The offense involved theft of property valued at $300 or more,
- The defendant is currently serving a term of probation, or
- The defendant has been arrested for a drug offense 3 or more times within the past 12 months
Focusing on Prosecuting Violent Crimes
Becton stated that the new policy will allow the Office to focus on pursuing crimes that endanger public safety. Prosecutors will continue to file charges for offenses involving gangs, violent criminals, drug dealers, and guns.
If you've been charged with a drug crime in Walnut Creek, contact Thomas Daly Law, A Professional Corporation at (925) 208-4801 today.