Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Use Your Discretion

This column is in no way intended as an endorsement of the use of illegal substances and is general information and should not be considered legal advice .

A few years back, I was parking my car next to a local dance club here in LA. As I was walking to the club, I passed by a parked car on a MAJOR street with three guys in it measuring their doses of what appeared to me to be GHB. Being the nosey attorney that I am, I tapped on the window. They rolled it down and I calmly said, "You know, if I can see you doing this, so can the LAPD." All three simultaneously said "Fuck-off." I pulled out a business card and responded, "You’re probably going to need this one day...".

That night, I began to notice, just how much illegal drugs have become part of our community; and how most of us want to ignore the fact that although extremely popular, party drugs are still ILLEGAL. I was fortunate to come out at a very young age and have been going to clubs since I was about sixteen. I remember a time when discretion in party drug use was adhered to because people were afraid of getting arrested. Because of their popularity in clubs and wide spread use in the community, it appears most people forget about the possible long term consequences to their life, finances and occupations if they are arrested; and often, place themselves in jeopardy of this occurring. .

Many of us in clubs and at events have worked very hard in life and value our jobs and professions. We work hard all week and look forward to these events so we can just let off some steam. However, most people do not realize that if you are a licensed professional (lawyer, doctor, professional driver, real estate agent, etc., etc.); have a position with a major company; or have plans of being in one of these jobs one day - having a drug conviction on your record is something that may follow you the rest of your life and severely limit your occupational goals.

Police and Federal Agents are not stupid. They know exactly what is going on in our community and in the night club community as a whole. Driving while intoxicated, doing drugs openly in neighborhoods near our hang outs, overdosing in clubs, sending drugs through the mail, and other various lacks of discretion are most common ways people get arrested. If you "choose to use," simply do so wisely, and with moderation and discretion.

The majority of arrests occur either before you get to an event or after you leave an event. Public policy has law enforcement out there specifically to prevent you from not only placing yourself in danger but also from being a danger to others by driving while intoxicated or “under the influence of a substance.” If you are potentially going to be using an illegal substance and live in a city where public transport is out of the question, it’s always best to take a taxi.

If you are unlucky enough to get arrested for having "controlled substances," on your person, law enforcement and the courts generally look at one major factor in deciding what charges will be brought against you: the amount found on you or in your "control" at the time of your arrest. It makes no difference to them whether or not you intended on selling this substance or not. If you have more then 1 or 2 doses of a particular drug, it is highly likely they will attempt to charge you with a possession for sales charge instead of a possession for use charge. As you can well imagine, a "sales" charge is a great deal more serious then a "use" charge with much stronger penalties.

If you are arrested for being under the influence and/or possession of a small amount of drugs the good news is California has a drug "diversion" program which allow an individual with a "use" charge to have his or her matter dismissed upon completion of a drug treatment program. These programs are very specific as to who may get in and what charges apply. Diversion is not a matter of right, and in many cases it is up to the court's discretion to allow you into one of these programs.

Lastly, if you are HIV positive and you are arrested, you are running the danger of literally shortening your life. Although the jail and prison systems will not admit it, HIV positive individuals who are incarcerated do not receive adequate medical treatment. Generally you can be held in custody up to 72 hrs (that is NOT including weekends or holidays) if you are arrested, before you will see a judge and be notified of the charges against you (be "arraigned"). If you are on medications, it is likely you will not be receiving those meds for at least that period of time (and longer should you be sentenced to custody time).

Carl Simons is an attorney in the Southern California area, with offices in Los Angeles, and Irvine. If you have questions about this, or any other legal matter feel free to contact me at (310) 749-4529.


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