Sentencing

Calif. Bill Would Give Prosecutors More Discretion on Drug Charges

But would they actually use it?

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State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would agree. Like Holder, he believes cracking down on drug offenders has spurred a self-perpetuating spiral of excessive punishment—particularly felony charges that remain on someone's record for life. He has authored a bill to give California district attorneys more discretion in how they prosecute possession of small amounts of drugs.

"How does this impact the next generation when we continue to place the burden of felonies on more and more people for no good reason?" Leno said in an interview. "It becomes intergenerational, and the problem will only grow."

Under Senate Bill 649, sponsored by a coalition of organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance and the California Public Defenders Association, simple drug possession would become a "wobbler"—a term meaning prosecutors could charge Californians caught with small amounts of drugs with either a misdemeanor or a felony.

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