It’s important for people to realize that it’s all about hiring the right attorney, which is true not just for drug-related crimes, but for any crime. It’s important to hire someone who is knowledgeable and who continues to stay involved with the changing rules, laws and published cases. Being involved and educated about the process is important.
For example, I am very familiar with a specific code section that talks about serving time in a rehabilitation facility and how they may be entitled to custody credit against the time they were in rehab; some prosecutors and judges I have dealt with have been completely unfamiliar with this, but it can save someone a tremendous amount of potential incarceration time because they had been in rehab. Don’t just hire any lawyer; I have tremendous experience and know the parties involved, which makes me the right person for this type of practice, and I also encourage people to do their diligence and research the attorney they want to hire, to make sure they hire the right lawyer.
This comes down to the type of offense the person was being charged with; it can vary drastically; for something as simple as a misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia, the case may be over in just 30 days, although it can take longer, depending on how many Narcotics Anonymous classes they have to attend. For more serious offenses, including misdemeanor possession cases, which often involve rehab, I will try to find a way to get the case dismissed, which involve a client doing either an outpatient or a live-in program, which can take from 30 days to 6 months, in order to gain a dismissal of the case, or to really work on rehabilitation for the benefit of the client and come out of the case without a criminal record, which is why it may last a little bit longer.
Certainly, when dealing with more complicated cases involving transportation, possession for sale or conspiracy cases, it can take a year to a year-and-a-half; some counties are also different in their efficiency with these things, especially with more serious cases, which tend to drag on; cases involving wiretap investigations and large amounts of discovery, reports, and audio recordings can take upwards of 1-3 years.
Most cases end up with some plea, and the benefit of having a well-qualified, knowledgeable defense attorney working with the prosecutor is that the person will know about any other options available. In our society, we tend to look at these drug possession and under the influence cases as more of a disease or addiction, rather than crimes worthy of punishment, so we tend to see treatment as being a better option than putting someone in jail.
The legislature formed programs like DEJ and Prop 36, and I think properly and correctly, judges are seeing that we should be treating these people and helping them get back on their feet. Making someone a convicted felon putting criminal convictions on their record is very damaging to them, making it difficult to find employment, get a home loan or move forward in their profession or their education, even if they succeed with rehabilitation. Because of that and the sheer volume of cases, the better option would be to help a defendant come out of this without a conviction, so those tools should be more readily accessible.
There should certainly be exceptions, in which cases should go to trial, where the nature of the evidence is weak and there was a strong defense, especially when talking about marijuana. I see this happen more often now because a prosecutor may feel as if there may have been something more unlawful going on and in a case of a cultivation or a case involving a collective or cooperative, they may feel that it was being done illegally, when the evidence showed it was a legitimate collective or cooperative; those cases may go to trial. More and more prosecuting offices are recognizing these things, which is why more cases are settling.
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