Anaheim Prosecutors Mount First Legal Challenge to Proposition 36 Rulings
The Anaheim city attorney's office has filed the "first legal challenges" to Proposition 36, charging that judges have "unlawfully" used the initiative in cases involving defendants whose crimes are not covered under the law, the Los Angeles Times reports. Implemented on July 1, Proposition 36 is the voter-approved initiative that calls for most non-violent first- and second-time drug offenders to be directed toward treatment instead of jail. The Anaheim city attorney's office has appealed decisions in seven cases in which judges authorized treatment for defendants arrested on "suspicion of possessing drug paraphernalia." The attorneys contend that Proposition 36 does not cover charges relating to drug paraphernalia such as syringes and pipes. In addition, the attorney's office is challenging use of the law in cases for defendants arrested prior to July 1. The Times reports that the dispute, which will be heard in Orange County Superior Court, is "one of several" that has cropped up statewide over how to interpret the new law. The Anaheim attorney's office said it hopes to have the appeals court "clarify which offenses are eligible" for treatment and which are not. Anaheim Assistant City Attorney Pat Ahle said, "The law says only certain types of crimes apply. We're trying to uphold the law as it is stated." Meanwhile, prosecutors in San Diego have taken a more lenient approach to the law, electing not to oppose its use in drug paraphernalia cases. San Diego Assistant City Attorney Susan Heath said, "We agree with the Anaheim city attorney that the paraphernalia cases are not included under a strict reading of the law. We've decided to look at the spirit of the law, rather than the letter of the law." Law enforcement officials in other parts of the state said that they are waiting for the outcome in the Anaheim case to decide how to proceed. Still, prosecutors say that the California Supreme Court will ultimately need to decide how to interpret the new law (Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 7/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.