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LOS ANGELES CRIMINAL DEFENSE BLOG

The Case for Decriminalizing Drugs

The United States is just coming to the realization that treating illicit drugs as purely a criminal matter has limited effectiveness in dealing with the problem, that it costs our government untold millions, and has led to one of the largest prison populations in the world. For all of the time, money, and effort the nation has expended to eliminate drug use, trafficking and the many other undesirable consequences, we find ourselves almost 50 years into the effort with little to show for it. Symbolic of the official attitude toward drugs is the federal government’s War on Drugs.

The War on Drugs

Prop 47 and Decreasing Participation in Diversion Programs

The Decreasing Participation in Drug Diversion Programs

A story relayed a few months ago in the newspaper provided interesting insight into just how the controversial Prop 47 had changed day-to-day procedures within the LAPD. As many will remember, Proposition 47 turned certain felonies, like drug possession, into misdemeanors, with the corresponding promise that dollars saved on locking up drug users would be put into treatment.

Two officers had detained a homeless man who had set up a rough encampment under a freeway underpass. While one officer carefully watched the handcuffed man, the other officer gingerly rummaged under a grimy mattress, presumably the homeless man’s sleeping accommodations. This search yielded two needles and a glass pipe with a small amount of methamphetamine inside. Prior to Prop 47, the homeless man would have been hauled off to jail to face a felony charge.

The Differences between Arrest, Bench, and Search Warrants

There are three types of warrants that can be issued against you in California: an arrest warrant, bench warrant, and search warrant. While they have some similarities, they are used for different reasons.

In California, arrest, bench, and search warrants are court orders issued by a court or judge.

Drug Use and Prisons: A Crisis in the Making

Drugs have been for years a part of the national dialogue in all sectors of American culture – political, social, and, most noticeably, in popular culture. It seems that a sizeable segment of the population has a desire to get high, and a cursory look at history hints that this has long been the case. Drugs have probably been used by people for almost as long as there have been people. Many currently illegal drugs, such as marijuana, opium, coca, and psychedelics have been used for thousands of years for both medical and spiritual purposes. If the use of drugs is such an innate and enduring part of human culture, why is it viewed as criminal behavior worthy of the expenditure of huge amounts of our society’s resources (economic, political, social, etc.)?

Any number of answers to this question may have at least some basis in reality. One answer is supported in large measure by the visible facts, but is not based on any scientific assessment of the relative risks of these drugs. This answer has everything to do with who is associated with certain drugs. In other words, it’s the people who have been associated with drug use that makes drug use worthy of our best efforts to criminalize drug use.

Modern America and Prescription Drugs

The Prescription Drug Epidemic

Illicit drugs have a long standing negative image in modern American culture. They are widely regarded as something only those on the fringes of society make use of, but certainly not consumed by upstanding citizens. But, as history has shown, America has long held the door open to the use of drugs by all ranks of our society.

cocaine-drops

The Evolution of Organized Crime in America

Organized crime has played a fabled part in 20th century American history. Television and movies have done much to bring the story of organized crime into the nation’s consciousness. Those who remember the dawn of the television era may recall Senator Estes Kefauver and his “Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce” heatedly questioning notorious mobsters who appeared before the committee in the early 50’s.

kefauver2

Human Trafficking: The New Slave Trade

In the United States, the slave trade was officially ended in 1807 when the congress enacted legislation that stated that no new slaves were permitted to be imported. With the passing of The Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves, the practice of bringing slaves into this country should have long ago become a relic of the past. Most modern Americans think that this slavery is long gone, so it’s shocking to learn that the business of trafficking in humans, a present day version of slavery, is alive and even thriving in our state. California is ranked as one of the states with the worst problems of human trafficking with Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego being among the top 10 areas in the United States for the activity. There are subtle signs if we pay close attention. Sometimes a police raid of a human stash house or the story of a young woman sold into prostitution gets reported by local TV, but these stories are the exceptional few that have managed to emerge from what is a growing industry of trafficking in human beings.

Human trafficking as a modern form of slavery has evolved profoundly over the last five years. The reasons for this evolution are rooted in long established drug smuggling methods and the widening use of social media. Now a prime player in the human trafficking trade, the drug trafficking trade spawned transnational and domestic gangs, which then added the lucrative trafficking of human beings to their accustomed businesses of moving guns and drugs. By providing an easy method of victim recruitment, social media has become a key facilitator of human trafficking, particularly in the sex worker industry. All perpetrators of human trafficking have become more sophisticated and organized, in particular, technologically.

A National Tragedy: Police Violence and the Black Community

An Ongoing Parade of Police Violence

The country of late has been front-and-center witness to an ongoing parade of police violence, particularly against young black men. Since the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to Freddie Grey’s death in a Baltimore police van in April of this year, there has been a steady stream of fatal incidents involving the police and black men, for the most part, young men. And these are just the incidents that have made national headlines.

 

The Trouble with Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Testimony…the Gold Standard?

Eyewitness testimony is understood by most people to be the gold standard when it comes to reconstructing the details of certain events that haven’t been documented by any other means. This belief comes into question when any number of people can witness a crime in progress and later report substantially different accounts than others witness present at the same event. Seemingly obvious items like gender, hair color, or if the person was wearing a hat can vary. In is further astounding when those same witnesses will later provide totally different details of the incident to another questioner.

DNA and Criminality: Two Sides of a Coin

Unique to an individual, except in very limited situations, DNA is unchanging throughout one’s life. DNA is a reliable identifier, and, most conveniently for forensic purposes, it is found in all the body’s cells. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is an essential molecule that is found in every part of our bodies. DNA testing on biological samples such as skin, saliva, semen, blood or hair is increasingly used to help convict or exonerate people suspected of crimes and with great accuracy. As crucial courtroom evidence, it must be properly collected, preserved and kept from contamination. When the whole procedure is expertly undertaken and correctly completed, DNA testing has become the modern, almost foolproof version of fingerprinting.

 

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