This legislative session, lawmakers are split over how to respond to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision. That ruling struck down the state’s felony drug possession law. It essentially invalidating decades of criminal convictions and related penalties, like orders to pay restitution for such violations.
SB 5467 would make possession a misdemeanor and order completion of treatment to overturn the conviction and dismiss charges. If the person willfully abandons or rejects treatment, then a 45-day jail sentence would be imposed.
SB 5467, recently heard in committee, would provide an effective solution to the rampant problem of public drug use. This is an outside-the-box policy idea that is treatment-forward but with accountability for failure to undergo treatment. Many mayors, community members and police officers have personally expressed that the current system of essentially recommending to users that they go to treatment, without any charges filed or accountability applied, is not working. This bill provides a better path.
Under this bill, a person could be charged with a gross misdemeanor if they possess illegal drugs. If the person completes the substance use disorder treatment prior to their conviction being entered, the court would be required to dismiss the charge. If a conviction is entered, the court could not sentence to jail but would order the person to undergo treatment based on their treatment needs. If the person completes the treatment, the conviction would be overturned and dismissed.
If the person willfully abandons treatment or demonstrates a consistent failure to engage in treatment, however, the court would be required to impose at least 45 days of jail.
The requirement for treatment would be subject to the availability of treatment and the availability of funding for it. If treatment or funding were not available, the court would not be allowed to sanction the person with jail time for noncompliance.
This bipartisan bill has been co-sponsored by twelve Democratic and four Republican senators.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.