Drug Treatment Can Replace Prison Time with a California Criminal Lawyer

Opinions in blog posts are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of 1.800.NoCuffs and The Kavinoky Law Firm.

As any California criminal lawyer will tell you, it is difficult to categorically say whether or not drug treatment can be used as an alternative sentence to prison time. Suspending a prison sentence in favor of rehabilitation, such as drug treatment for a drug offense or alcohol treatment for a DUI, is often within the judge/s sentencing discretion. This is especially the case when the crime charged is a misdemeanor, known sometimes as a “wobbler,”charged as a felony that could be reduced to a misdemeanor. However, several drug-related crimes are straight felonies in California, which complicates the judge’s ability to issue alternative sentences.

In California, proposition 36, called the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, sets out the ways that defendants convicted of non-violent drug offenses can qualify for a probationary sentence instead of prison time. Prop. 36, which were passed in 2000, are only available to those convicted of some non-violent drug possession crimes. So straight felony drug convictions such as possessing cocaine, heroin, or opiates, cultivation of marijuana, and sales or transportation related drug crimes are immediately not eligible. Similarly, California penal code stipulates that anyone with an incarceration in the last five years, anyone also found guilty of a non-drug related crime at the same time, any defendant who refuses treatment, or anyone who already has two separate drug convictions or participated in Prop. 36 twice already are ineligible for Proposition 36.

So barring these circumstances, you have the option of using drug treatment as an alternative to jail or prison time. But this still depends on what your California criminal lawyer can work out with the prosecution and the judge. Assuming you do qualify, most judges in California tend to prioritize treatment and rehabilitation over jail time and are very amenable to suspending an incarceration sentence if the defendant seems to be in the right state of mind and his or her lawyer makes a strong case that it was an isolated event.

If you are approved for Prop. 36 treatments, several restrictions are set and if you fail to meet any the agreed-upon requirements, your suspended sentence can be reinstated. You will have to return to court upon failing to complete, and the judge will decide how to deal with a new sentence.

Along the same lines, it is sometimes possible to have a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor, which carries several benefits for the defendant. It is important to discuss this and all other options with your California criminal lawyer before beginning any course of action, as sometimes one will preclude the others. However, regardless of which alternate paths you opt for, qualifying for a reduced sentence in lieu of jail time can be a life-saving opportunity.