«From Inception to Implementation: How SACPA has affected the Case Processing and Sentencing of Drug Offenders in One California County DISSERTATION ...»
Questions asked of particular interviewees varied based on current assignment (supervising officer/agent or deputy probation officer/parole agent) and experience with Proposition 36 probationers/parolees. The interview instruments included questions about Proposition 36 (PC1210) probation/parole and how it differed from “pre-PC1210” probation/parole for drug offenders, whether the typical drug offender on probation/parole were different as a result of the law, the officer’s experience working with PC1210 probationers or parolees, and perceived impact of the law on their job and their agency. The probation officer instrument is Appendix F and the parole agent instrument is Appendix G.
Jail Staff The jail staff interview instrument contained 27 open-ended questions.
Questions asked of particular interviewees varied based on current assignment and knowledge of Proposition 36 as it impacted jail operations since inception. The interview instruments included questions about Proposition 36 (PC1210) the impact of Prop36 on jail operations, specifically intake procedures, jail capacity and sentences.
The jail staff interview instrument is Appendix H.
Implementation Team The implementation team interview instrument contained 30 open-ended questions. The instrument included questions about the planning and pilot study phase as well as the early implementation process. It was designed to allow practitioners to describe the process as it unfolded and to identify the obstacles, major and minor, expected and unexpected, that developed along the way. The implementation team instrument is found as Appendix I.
SACPA applies to all “non-violent drug possession” offenses. However, the law was open to some interpretation when it was first implemented and there was no single agreed-upon list of all offenses eligible for SACPA sentencing in Orange County. Therefore, the dependent variable “SACPA-eligible offenses” needed to be defined. I employed a two-step process to do this. First, I used UCLA study findings to identify a list of all potentially eligible drug offenses. Second, I worked with a research analyst from the Orange County Probation Department to refine this list to include offenses most often considered “SACPA-eligible” in Orange County.
Counties throughout the state varied on their interpretation of the statute in regards to eligible “drug possession” offenses20 (Longshore, et al., 2003). According to the UCLA study, three offenses qualified for SACPA diversion in all 58 counties in Disagreement was limited to the first couple years of the law, prior to when the California Supreme Court established case law on eligible offenses.
California; H&S2111550 (under the influence of a controlled substance – a misdemeanor); H&S11350 (possession of a schedule I or II drug [a.k.a “narcotic”]– a felony); and H&S11377 (possession of a schedule III-V drug [a.k.a. “dangerous drug”] – a felony). However, counties disagree on six other “drug possession” offenses: H&S11352 (transportation of a schedule I or II drug [a.k.a “narcotic”] for personal use – a felony), H&S11357 (possession of cannabis – a misdemeanor), H&S11364 (possession of paraphernalia – can be either a felony or a misdemeanor), H&S11379 (transportation of a schedule III-V drug [a.k.a. “dangerous drug”] for personal use – a misdemeanor), B&P224140 (possession of a syringe – a misdemeanor), and B&P4149 (possession of paraphernalia – a misdemeanor).
Based on this information, Sandy Hilger, Ph.D., a research analyst for the Orange County Probation Department, ran a query of all SACPA probationers charged with any of the above offenses (including all subsections of any of the above offenses). This query revealed that most probationers were on SACPA probation for (in order): H&S11377 (possession of a dangerous drug), H&S11364 (possession of paraphernalia), H&S11550 (under the influence of a controlled substance), H&S11350 (possession of a narcotic), and B&P4140 (possession of a syringe). A very small percentage of offenders were on probation for H&S11357 (misdemeanor possession of cannibis) and less than 1% of probationers were on probation for H&S11352 (transporting a narcotic for personal use), H&S11379 (transporting a dangerous drug for personal use), or B&P4149 (misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia). Based on H&S is an abbreviation for the California Health and Safety code, which defines these crimes.
B&P is an abbreviation for the California Business and Professions code, which defines these crimes.
the results I excluded the following offense codes that were on UCLA’s “sometimes
offense codes that were consistently considered “SACPA-eligible offenses” in Orange County: H&S11350, H&S11364, H&S11377, H&S11550, and B&P4140. Therefore,
for the purposes of this study, the term “SACPA-eligible offenses” includes:
H&S11350, H&S11364, H&S11377, H&S11550, and B&P4140.
Data used to assess trends are divided by criminal justice stage (arrest, court processing and sentencing, and corrections). The following sections describe the data used to answer the various research questions and explain the strengths and weaknesses of each data source. Data were collected from three sources: the California Criminal Justice Statistics Center (a secondary data collection agency), the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, and the Orange County Probation Department23. The California Criminal Justice Statistics Center (CJSC) is the data repository for all criminal justice data in the state of California. Local criminal justice agencies report criminal events to the state on a monthly basis. The state has two databases that are particularly useful for the current study, “Monthly Arrest and Citation Register (MACR)” and “Offender Based Transactions System (OBTS).” MACR reports the number of adult and juvenile arrests in the state of California for felonies and misdemeanors and OBTS reports final disposition data for all adults I attempted, but was unable to secure admissions data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Orange County Jail. Orange County Jail was unable to provide the data requested. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation was unwilling to provide the data requested.
arrested or convicted of a felony24. Both are detailed below and a matrix explaining the data used to answer various research questions is contained in Appendix A. Also a matrix describing the variables contained in each dataset is found in Appendix I.
Arrest Data A total of three datasets are used to analyze the impact of Proposition 36 on drug arrests in Orange County during the study period. Two datasets are from the
information for felonies and misdemeanors whereas OBTS contains arrest and disposition information, but only for felony crimes. All data are aggregate level data.
(MACR #1) contains adult arrests for all drug crimes for the period January 1, 1995 to December 31, 2006. It is broken down into seven arrest categories (felony narcotics, felony dangerous drugs, felony marijuana, felony other drugs, misdemeanor dangerous
narcotics” category includes arrests involving schedule I or II drugs such as opiates (heroin) and cocaine. The “felony dangerous drugs” category includes arrests involving schedule III, IV or V drugs such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and other manufactured “club” drugs. The “felony marijuana” category is self-evident and the “felony other drugs” category contains felony arrests for everything else (false prescriptions, paraphernalia, etc.). The misdemeanor categories include the same types of crimes as the felony categories, but at the misdemeanor level. These data are In California, there are three types of crimes: felonies, misdemeanors, and infractions. Felonies are the most serious and are punishable by more than one year in state prison. Misdemeanors are less serious and are punishable by no more than 365 days in county jail. Infractions are citable offenses (e.g. speeding ticket).
used to examine arrest trends for all drug crimes during the study period. They are also used to illustrate differences in arrest patterns for SACPA-eligible and notSACPA-eligible drug crimes.
Next, data on arrests for the five SACPA-eligible offenses were obtained. The second CJSC dataset (MACR #2) includes a count of all adults arrested for H&S1155025 (misdemeanor under the influence) on a monthly basis for the period
enforcement agency and are used to assess arrest trends and validate claims made by law enforcement officers during interviews that some officers changed their arrest practices in response to SACPA. Unfortunately, I was unable to obtain arrest data for H&S11364 (possession of paraphernalia26) or B&P4140 (possession of a syringe) because these offenses are contained in the felony or misdemeanor other drugs categories and cannot be queried separately.
(OBTS #1) comes from the OBTS database and contains aggregate-level case processing and sentencing information on all adults arrested for felony drug offenses H&S11350 (possession of a schedule I or II drug) or H&S11377 (possession of a schedule III-V drug) for the time period January 1, 1995 to December 31, 2005. This dataset separates the two drug offenses, so patterns can be analyzed separately or together. This dataset is preferred to the MACR dataset broken down by offense category because it removes all the offenses that are not considered “SACPA-eligible” H&S11350 and H&S11377 arrests are analyzed using data from the OBTS database.
H&S11364 (possession of paraphernalia) is a wobbler and can be either a felony or a misdemeanor.
in Orange County and contains only the two primary felony offenses that offenders sentenced to SACPA are arrested for.
Additionally, this dataset provides monthly counts of 15 variables, including:
felony arrest dispositions, law enforcement releases, complaints filed, cases dismissed, offenders convicted, and offenders sentenced to prison (for a complete list, see Appendix B). Therefore, this dataset is also used to ascertain court processing and sentencing trends for drug possession offenses. It does not provide offender characteristics data.
Court Processing and Sentencing Data Court processing and sentencing trends are analyzed using data from CJSC’s OBTS database and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. In addition to the third dataset mentioned above that includes aggregate level case processing and sentencing information on all adults arrested for felony drug possession offenses H&S11350 or H&S11377, I utilize two additional OBTS convictions datasets. As with the arrest datasets, one is broken down by drug category (e.g. felony narcotics) and the other is broken down by SACPA-eligible drug offense (e.g. H&S11377).
(OBTS #2) contains sentencing information on adults arrested for a felony and convicted of any drug crime for the time period January 1, 1995 to December 31,
2005. This dataset is broken down into seven drug conviction categories (felony narcotics, felony dangerous drugs, felony marijuana, felony other drugs, misdemeanor dangerous drugs, misdemeanor marijuana, and misdemeanor other drugs)27. These categories contain arrests for crimes that are not eligible for SACPA diversion. The dataset provides monthly counts of 8 variables, including: offenders convicted of a given crime and sentenced to various punishments (for a complete list, see Appendix I). It does not provide offender characteristics data. A large benefit of this dataset is that it includes only misdemeanor convictions that resulted from a felony arrest. Thus it is possible to identify changes in conviction trends that affected the level of crime convicted of (misdemeanor or felony).
The fifth CJSC dataset (OBTS #3) contains sentencing information on all adults arrested for a felony and convicted of a SACPA-eligible drug crime for the time period January 1, 1995 to December 31, 2005. This dataset is broken down into five drug conviction offenses: felony H&S11350, felony H&S11377, misdemeanor H&S11550, felony & misdemeanor H&S11364, and misdemeanor B&P4140. Once again, it is important to keep in mind that only misdemeanor convictions that resulted
misdemeanor convictions in each category per month is quite small in most cases.
The small cell counts increase the variance and make the data unusable for time series analyses using a monthly time interval. Thus, the misdemeanor conviction data has limited usefulness and cannot be used for any analyses beyond evaluating basic trends toward more or fewer misdemeanor convictions.
be discussed. The first limitation is that the OBTS database I rely on only contains The database contains information on felony arrests only. Misdemeanor conviction data represent only the cases that started as a felony arrest and resulted in a misdemeanor conviction.
disposition information on felony arrests (not misdemeanor arrests). This is unfortunate, but according to data from the probation department, approximately 75%
- 90% of Orange County probationers on probation for a SACPA-eligible offense are on probation for a felony, either H&S11350 or H&S11377. Therefore, this is not expected to be a significant issue. Another standard limitation of arrest data is that in the event a person is arrested for multiple offenses, only the most serious offense is reported, thus it may underestimate the number of drug arrests. Also, only final disposition of an arrest is reported (intermediate dispositions are not entered).
The data from CJSC are approximately 25-35% under-reported for the entire state. Also, various data limitations occur periodically and apply to specific years or counties that must be taken into consideration. For instance, dispositions can not be separated by offense (ex. drugs) for the year 2002 due to a data entry error (Linda Nance, personal communication, May 5, 2004). Thus, all of my time series from the OBTS datasets are missing 12 data points after implementation for the year 2002.