Whenever drugs are found in a car after a traffic stop, the first thing that defense counsel must do is determine the validity of the stop itself. The police cannot randomly stop a car and then later assign the reason for the stop as being a traffic violation. There must be a legitimate traffic violation observed prior to pulling the car over under California and federal constitutional law. If that is not done, drug crimes charged after the illegitimate traffic stop will generally have to be dismissed.
An annual study conducted by a prominent website ranked the University of California, Santa Cruz as the country's leader in administering drug-related discipline to students for the calendar year 2013. The study is really referring to drug referrals made through university channels. The number of arrests on campus for drug crimes was far lower and could even be considered insignificant.
The Los Angeles Police Department reports that a street fight over narcotics occurred between several males on Feb. 6, resulting in the death of one 17-year-old. Two other teens are reportedly being held and charged with murder under California law. Another suspect, an 18-year-old male, was held and charged with drug crimes.
The prison population is down somewhat throughout the California county jails as a result of the changes made by Proposition 47. The referendum paved the way to make certain crimes, including some drug crimes, punishable as misdemeanors instead of felonies. The result was to make the maximum sentence for those offenses to be no more than one year.
A raid of a private California home in Encinitas for drugs and drug activities should be based on a fresh investigation and on solidly supported reasonable cause. A search warrant should never be issued on the basis of mere speculation or unreliable informants. Where the raid is based on unidentified phone calls reporting suspected drug crimes and drug activities, without supportive evidence or solid reliability, those circumstances could arguably be insufficient justification for the issuance of a search warrant.
College fraternities are notorious for their parties, which often involve the consumption of alcohol and other questionable, albeit more intimate, activities. One such party in August led to an accusation of sexual assault against one of the members of Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) at a party that took place at an off-campus location. The investigation into that incident by police at the California State University San Marcos campus and other local law enforcement agencies ultimately prompted an investigation into drug crimes supposedly committed by fraternity members.
Voters in California have approved Proposition 47, which supporters hail as giving a real remedy to curb the continued mass incarceration of nonviolent offenders in cases where imprisonment is generally unjustified and unwarranted. The vote is also another step forward in the growing recognition that the war on drugs has been a dismal failure and a burdensome drain of valuable economic resources. The vote changes six low-level nonviolent felonies, including simple drug possession, down to misdemeanors.
For some time, the state of California's sentencing guidelines differentiated between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. That all ended recently with the passage of the California Fair Sentencing Act, which now makes the sentences for any derivative of cocaine the same. Proponents of the Act say this ends the racial disparity that existed when individuals were convicted of drug crimes involving cocaine or crack.
Street arrests for drug offenses in California must meet certain constitutional standards. Before an officer can stop an individual on a public street the officer must have what is called a reasonable suspicion. That requirement is less demanding than the probable cause required to make an arrest or obtain a search warrant. Therefore, if there is reasonable suspicion of criminal activity sufficient to authorize a proper "stop and frisk," and if drugs are found during a superficial frisk for weapons, a drug possession charge will possibly meet constitutional muster.
Those in California may assume that nonviolent crimes are not punished as harshly as ones that do involve violence. This is not always the case, as prosecutors always consider drug crimes to be serious. Someone who is convicted of drug possession could face a range of punishments, including fines or incarceration. This is the problem that faces the son of actor Robert Downey Jr., Indio, who was recently charged with two drug-related offenses here in California.