Pubdate: 10 Sep, 1999
Source: Isthmus (WI)
Author: Bill Lueders


DA's office eases off a few cases, but still routinely treats pot
possession as a crime.

Isthmus' recent two-part series on the War on Pot drew quite a reaction, to
judge from the letters we received (see P. 13). But did it make a difference?

There are signs that the Dane County District Attorney's office is getting
wary about embarassingly petty cases. For instance, on Aug. 27 the office
dismissed felony pot-possession charges against Dominic Bogan, suddenly
deciding "there's insufficient evidence to prosecute." Bogan was charged in
July after police searching a trash container in his home found "several
plastic baggies without corners, one of which had a suspect marijuana stem
in it." (Bogan was on probation, hence the warrantless home invasion.)

And on Aug. 8, the DA's office agreed to a plea involving Mark Dahl, whose
prosecution for possessing drug paraphernalia (after UW cops spotted a pot
pipe in his parked car) was the subject of a sidebar to Isthmus' July 30
article. Defense attorney Rick Meier says Assistant DA Ken Farmer accepted
the same offer--a noncriminal disorderly conduct charge, which brought a
$147.50 fine--that he had rejected twice before. "Definitely, the Isthmus
article is what pushed him," says Meier.

(DA Diane Nicks, referencing Dahl's case in her statement on P. 12, claims
he initially tested as having a blood alcohol level of .17, nearly twice
the legal limit. But police reports make no mention of this, and a
surprised Meier can't imagine the cops would have caught his client driving
drunk and just let it go. "I think it's unfair for her to insinuate he was
committing some other crime.")

In August, Dane County charged 17 individuals with felonies and 23 with
misdemeanors for cases involving pot possession. This is down slightly from
June, when 26 people were charged with felonies and 31 with misdemeanors
for cases involving pot possession. But the DA's office still routinely
opts to issue felony pot possession charges against people with previous
drug convictions. Indeed, in nine of the 17 felony cases filed last month,
pot possession was the only charge.

Last Saturday, The Capital Times quoted Nicks as saying she had taken steps
to reduce the "large numbers" of pot prosecutions. But it also reported
that her office is sticking to guidelines that call for criminal charges
whenever a pot-possession case involves more than a quarter ounce or a
defendant who fits any of the following: has been arrested for drugs within
the last ten years, qualifies as a repeat offender, was arrested for some
other offense, or was "uncooperative with police." One wonders what the
list would look like if the office weren't trying to cut down on these

[column continues with unrelated material] 
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