Over the last five years, misdemeanor drug arrests in California have fallen by almost 50 percent, due in large part to legislation passed in 2010 that redefined charges for minor marijuana possession.
Figures from the 2012 California Crime Report showcased a drastic reduction in drug-related arrests. Around 133,000 Californians were arrested for misdemeanor drug crimes in 2007—but by 2012, that number had dropped to about 72,000.
The legislation largely responsible for the reduction, Senate Bill 1449, was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in October 2010. The bill reclassified adult possession of marijuana in amounts of up to 28.5 grams, turning a criminal misdemeanor into an infraction. Infractions involve no court appearance or criminal record, and are punishable by a $100 fine.
The new law took effect on January 1, 2011. Just prior to that date, law enforcement officials in the state of California were making around 150 misdemeanor marijuana arrests per day, reports the Sacramento Bee.
In addition to misdemeanors, felony marijuana arrests during the past year were down by approximately 15 percent—from 14,082 at a peak in 2011 to 13,434 in 2012. Felony drug arrests typically involve drug traffickers, or people who are in possession of large quantities of illegal substances.
Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), stated in a press release: “Rather than continuing to spend tens of thousands of dollars in police time and in judicial costs arresting and prosecuting tens of thousands of minor marijuana offenders, these state resources are now being reprioritized toward other, more important public safety activities.”
California joins several other states, including Nebraska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island, in classifying the minor possession of marijuana as a noncriminal offense.
Vitaly Sigal, a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer, offers aggressive defense representation for people who have been charged with misdemeanor and felony possession of drugs, and other crimes. Contact our office today to discuss the details of your criminal drug case with Mr. Sigal.