Friday, March 21, 2014

Reducing drug-related court filings

From the Partnership blog:

Soon after Attorney General Eric Holder began making changes to drug laws, the number of drug defendants charged by the federal government dropped in January to its lowest monthly level in almost 14 years, according to a new report.

The report, by Syracuse University, found there were 1,487 new drug prosecutions in January 2014, down 7.8 percent from December, and down 11.5 percent from January 2013. “The number observed during the most recent six month period appears to be the lowest seen since the end of the Reagan Administration,” the researchers noted.

Holder recently launched a Smart on Crime initiative.  The initiative’s goals are: 
  1. To ensure finite resources are devoted to the most important law enforcement priorities;
  2. To promote fairer enforcement of the laws and alleviate the disparate impacts of the criminal justice system;
  3. To ensure just punishments for low-level, non-violent convictions;
  4. To bolster prevention and reentry efforts to deter crime and reduce recidivism;
  5. To strengthen protections for vulnerable populations.

 According to the Partnership blog: Last week, Holder testified before the United States Sentencing Commission in favor of changing federal guidelines to reduce the average sentence for drug dealers.

This information was released at around the same time that the WA ACLU reported that state court filings for marijuana possession dropped since the adoption of I-502.  If this has a long-term affect on freeing up law enforcement time is yet to be seen according to a Seattle Times article.

Before I-502 was adopted in our state, Seattle had already reduced the number of people who were arrested for marijuana possession.  In 2010, when former Seattle Mayor McGinn was asked about marijuana-related arrests, this was his reply:

Most police contacts involving marijuana occur because of an unrelated offense. For example, of the incident reports filed between January 1st and April 30th of this year, there were only eighty that cited possession of marijuana. Of these:

• 17 (21.3%) involved 911 calls for service. 7 were for narcotics complaints, meaning someone called 911 about drug-related activity and that drug turned out to be marijuana. 10 of those were dispatched calls for non-narcotics complaints like fighting, trespassing, or someone behaving erratically and blocking traffic and marijuana was discovered subsequent to the arrest. While enforcing marijuana laws is our lowest priority, responding to our community is our highest priority. 14 (17.5%) involved the serving of warrants. That is, officers encountered someone with an outstanding warrant, searched that individual, and discovered marijuana.

• 20 (25%) involved a traffic stop. Even under the most liberal legalization proposals, driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal, so when an officer stops a vehicle and smells pot, a search is clearly justified.

• 12 (15%) involved a High Drug Enforcement Area. These are areas of our city which see a high volume of drug trafficking, and have been targeted for heavy drug enforcement. When a cop sees a hand-to-hand sale, it’s not always obvious what drug was sold until they make the stop. Additionally, street-level dealers of heroin or cocaine often deal marijuana as well. Thus, marijuana shows up in the incident report.

• If you remove those four factors, you are left with 21 of the 80 incidents. Of the 21, all but six were incidents in which the officer stopped the suspect for a reason other than marijuana, and discovered marijuana incident to the arrest. Those six remaining incidents all involved individuals openly smoking marijuana in front of a police officer.

No comments:

Post a Comment