California court mulls criminal drug treatment program

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted July 13, 2009

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California physicians are urging a state appeals court to protect a voter-approved initiative that allows most non-violent drug offenders to enroll in community-based rehabilitation programs rather than face jail sentences.

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act was approved in 2000 by 61% of California voters. But a 2006 law, if permitted to stand, threatens to undo the reforms to the state's criminal sentencing statutes by allowing judges to incarcerate people who suffer drug relapses during treatment, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed in June by the California Medical Assn. and California Psychiatric Assn.

Physicians worry that the law will undermine the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programs if courts -- not medical professionals -- can end or interrupt participants' treatment because of a relapse.

A trial court found that the 2006 statute contradicted the voter-approved initiative. The state appealed the decision in Gardner v. Schwarzenegger to California's First District Court of Appeal, where the case is pending.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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