Friday, October 31, 2008

Four More Days

We interrupt scheduled posting about NOLA for this brief message.

The election is only four days away. While the presidential race takes center stage nationally, there are several statewide propositions that have the potential to dramatically affect the lives of Californians.

WeezerMonkey has written an excellent piece on why you should vote no on Prop 8.

Inspired by that piece, here are five reason to vote no on Prop 5 as explained by the CDAA. My personal observations are in italics. As someone who used to handle narcotics cases, I fully believe the passage of Prop 5 will be a gift for criminals and a disaster for communities.

  1. Proposition 5 proponents want voters to think this proposition is about keeping non-violent drug offenders out of the prison system, but thats based upon a false premise. Today, no first-time offender arrested solely for possession will be sent to prison ever. The real beneficiaries of Proposition 5 are drug dealers and those accused of crimes such as domestic violence, child abuse, identity theft, mortgage fraud and others. (The bolded section refers to the fact that first-time users are already regularly given Prop 36 terms as part of their probation. Prop 36 doesn't mandate jail or prison time. It requires rehab and counseling instead. Users receive multiple opportunities to continue in Prop 36 programs, even if they slip up during their probation. Custody time in county jail is usually the last resort for first-time users, unless they opt to do jail time instead of rehab.)
  2. Proposition 5 could provide, in effect, a get-out-of-jail-free card to defendants charged with crimes. For example, domestic violence, child abuse, mortgage fraud, identity theft, vehicular manslaughter, insurance fraud and auto theft, letting them effectively escape criminal prosecution altogether. If a violent offender is granted a hearing using the drugs made me do it defense, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to prove that the defendant should be held responsible for his or her crimes. (While the burden is always on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, prosecutors have never been asked to disprove a defense theory. For example, in cases where a defendant claim that he/she is not guilty by reason on insanity, the defense carries the burden of proving that to the jury. Shifting the burden in the way Prop 5 suggests is unprecedented.)
  3. Proposition 5 goes far beyond the drug-dependent individual; it also applies to drug dealers. For example, those found with up to $50,000 worth of 'meth' would be treated the same as an individual user. We need to keep focused on helping those who are drug-dependent, rather than dealers profiting off addiction. Prop 5 treats meth dealers the same as an individual drug user. (Most street level dealers have far less than $50K worth of drugs, but are dealers nonetheless.)
  4. Proposition 5 undermines successful rehabilitation. Current rehabilitation and drug courts are set up with defined goals and consequences; these two elements are critical to effective rehabilitation efforts.
  5. Proposition 5 spending will continue forever, and can only be restricted by a future multi-million dollar voter initiative campaign. The Governor and Legislature cannot adjust Prop 5 funding, even in times of budget shortfall or state crisis.

Other propositions in CA (again with my thoughts) worth taking a closer look at are:

  • Proposition 2 (yes): humane treatment of farm animals
  • Proposition 4 (no): requires parental notification before a minor could get an abortion
  • Propositions 7 (no) & 10 (yes): alternative energy
  • Proposition 9 (no): victim involvement in court proceedings. I know it seems counterintuitive that I'd vote no on this one, but it would require victim involvement and consent at every stage of a criminal case. I think it would be incredibly burdensome on prosecutors and would unduly hinder the plea negotiation process. Besides, most prosecutors already contact victims on serious and sensitive cases prior to any major developments in the process.

You may not agree with me on everything. And that's okay with me as long as you have researched the issues. Except when it comes to Prop 8. There is no excuse for denying someone a fundamental right.