A controversy regarding public health, individual rights and law enforcement parameters is brewing in some communities in California. Recently, some Bay Area residents have been engaged in a running dispute over the right of police to confiscate their medical marijuana, arrest them for drug violations and seize their assets, including their homes. The police in Liverpool are accused of having lost a common sense perspective by going so far as to put one or more cancer patients in peril, and by applying draconian measures and pressures to the daily struggle for survival of numerous medically challenged individuals.
A lot of things can be smuggled into the country and made to escape the scrutiny of airport officials, if those doing the smuggling are baggage personnel working for one or more of the airlines. California recently faced that problem when federal authorities charged each of 14 people with a single felony count of participating in a conspiracy to distribute 100 or more kilograms of marijuana. The felony charge exposes each defendant to between five and 40 years in a federal prison.
When the authorities get a disturbance call, they are duty-bound to not exceed the scope of their authority under federal and California law. They should investigate the requested matter and then leave the premises, unless they have observed a crime being committed in plain view or properly receive reliable information that establishes probable cause to proceed on some other matter. Even with probable cause of a suspected drug crime, the best procedure is to return to the station and swear out a search warrant.
It is virtually impossible to leave a prisoner in a holding cell in an official federal Drug Enforcement Administration office in a major metropolitan area and forget him for five consecutive days. That is what the San Diego DEA did, however, to a 23-year-old University of California student who had been picked up in a drug raid and never charged with a drug crime. Instead, he was forgotten and ignored for five days, while handcuffed and without water, food or sanitary facilities.
As California society generally comes to agree on the preference of rehabilitation over incarceration for first-time minor drug offenders, there will inevitably be a need for changes in the law to accommodate the new paradigm. Under current law, those first-time offenders charged with simple possession of a small amount of drugs may participate in a diversionary program. Thus, qualified drug offenders will enter a "deferred entry of judgment," which is, in essence, a guilty plea with the criminal sentence being deferred.