State Appellate Court to Hear Arguments on Proposition 36 Cutoff Date
The state's 2nd District Court of Appeals has agreed to hear arguments on whether people convicted of drug offenses before Proposition 36 took effect July 1 are eligible for the initiative's treatment programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. 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. Last week, a panel of the appellate court ordered the release of an inmate who had been convicted of cocaine possession in May and was sentenced to jail instead of treatment. The defendant was sentenced July 12. The appellate panel was responding to a writ from the Los Angeles County public defender's office, which is arguing that the official conviction date is when the judge imposes the sentence. But Los Angeles County district attorney spokesperson Jane Robison said the district attorney's office believes the "cutoff date is the conviction date." Dave Fratello, who helped write the proposition, said that he intended the law to apply to defendants sentenced after July 1, adding that some prosecutors are "reading the law differently." Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Tynan, who supervises the county's drug courts, said, "There are judges on both sides on this issue. Nobody is going to be totally happy until the appellate court tells us exactly what cases come in under Proposition 36." Tynan said that he believes most judges "recognize that the spirit of the law is to allow for treatment rather than incarceration." He added that the "final word" on the issue likely will come from the state Supreme Court. The state appellate hearing is scheduled for Sept. 24 (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 7/24).