4th Oct 2013
In another move to deal with arcane drug laws and unchecked prosecutorial discretion, Governor Brown signed into law AB721 which amends Health and Safety Code sections 11352 and 11379. Up until this change, a person who possessed a small quantity of a drug like cocaine or heroin while driving, bicycling or even walking could be charged not only with possession, but with “transportation”.
While simple possession of these drugs entitled a person to seek diversion or drug treatment, persons charged with transportation were ineligible. If a person could prove that the drugs were for personal use, then they would be eligible for the treatment programs but could still be convicted of transportation.
AB721 amends the current statutes by adding the language:
For purposes of this section, “transports” means to transport for sale.
When a person bears the burden of proving they possessed the drugs for personal use, it requires that a person demonstrate that it is “more likely than not” that their purpose was personal use. By changing the statute, the burden of proof is now placed on the prosecution. To convict, the prosecution must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the drugs were being transported for sale.
This change in the law was supported by the ACLU, California Public Defenders Association, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, Californians for Criminal Justice and other organizations seeking more rehabilitation and less incarceration for drug users. It was opposed by the California District Attorneys Association, California Narcotic Officers Association and the California Police Chiefs Association.