Pubdate: Wed, 06 May 2015
Source: Daily Press (Victorville, CA)
Copyright: 2015 Freedom Communications, Inc.
Author: Shea Johnson


Prosecutor Talks Effects of Recent Measures

VICTORVILLE - Speaking about the erased incentive for lower-level 
offenders to enter drug court under Proposition 47, San Bernardino 
County Deputy District Attorney Kris Parde said Tuesday the resulting 
declining enrollment could ultimately lead to the program's demise in 

"Our drug court used to be about 75 to 80 people up here in the High 
Desert," said Parde during a presentation to the Rotary Club of 
Victorville. "It's dwindled to eight."

The current enrollment represents as much as a 90 percent decline, 
which might spell trouble since drug court programs rely heavily on 
grant funding, she said.

Calling the state "soft on crime," Parde outlined the affects of 
Prop. 47, AB 109 and Prop. 215 within the criminal justice system, 
acknowledging that "as a DA, it's really frustrating to see what's 
happened in the last 20 years."

A retroactive measure passed in November, Prop. 47 reduced penalties 
for drug possession and other non-violent felonies, including 
commercial burglary, forgery, grand theft and possession of a 
controlled substance. These crimes used to be "wobblers," meaning 
that prosecutors had the discretion to charge them as either felonies 
or misdemeanors.

In addition to criticizing Prop. 47 for removing that discretion, 
Parde reiterated a troubling point previously made by District 
Attorney Mike Ramos: Without the bargaining chip of lowering felonies 
to misdemeanors, the proposition has erased any incentive to compel 
defendants into drug court.

"Our drug court's basically non-existent," Ramos told the Daily Press 
in February.

Parde said the DA's office receives between 10 to 20 reports daily of 
burglaries at major retailers, where suspects walk out with anywhere 
between $500 to $949 worth of merchandise. The reason, she said: 
Anything less than $950 is now a misdemeanor, and they know that.

"We have them on video with calculators, going through the store, 
adding up things so they can stay below the threshold cutoff," she said.

Regarding AB 109, which went into effect three years ago to address 
prison overcrowding and shifted a bulk of responsibility from state 
prisons to local jails, Parde spoke about a cartel drug-runner she 
prosecuted. The man was caught with two crates of cocaine and was 
sentenced to 14 years in state prison. He ended up, however, spending 
just two years in county jail.

Meant to divert funds away from locking up non-violent offenders and 
steer money toward rehabilitation, the measures instead symbolize a 
swinging pendulum which, she said, has been moving from far right to 
far left since the 1980s.

Talking to the Rotary members, many of whom are business owners, 
Parde also addressed Prop. 215, the legalize medical marijuana law, 
from a business perspective. She urged members to send any concerns 
about medical marijuana dispensaries opening near them to local legislators.

Noting the perennial conflict between federal and state laws, she 
said dispensaries that have been busted by the DA's office, on 
average, were bringing in $150,000 to $300,000 in cash each day.

"And that's all under the table," she said. "They're not paying taxes 
on it. The clientele that comes with that isn't typically the 
clientele that the rest of the businesses surrounding there are going to want."

Parde admitted, as a personal bias, she was staunchly opposed to 
marijuana use for anyone under the age of 25, pointing to studies 
that show it hinders development.
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