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BART board member wants to send public drug users to jail

A board member for the Bay Area Rapid Transit System wants to change California law to stop rampant drug use inside transit stations and elevators. Under her proposal, individuals caught using hypodermic needles within the transit system could be charged with a felony and sentenced to up to 18 months in jail.

On May 22, a San Francisco TV station aired a photo of a man shooting up drugs in a BART system elevator. The board member says that such situations are becoming increasingly common and are a public safety issue for transit riders and employees alike. She claims that the state’s current drug laws are too lax on drug abusers.

In 2014, voters approved a measure that made possession and open use of felony class drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin, misdemeanor offenses. Legal observers familiar with the BART situation say that defendants charged with drug-related misdemeanors are rarely prosecuted. For the few who are convicted, jail sentences are usually short. However, not everyone agrees that California laws concerning public drug use should be strengthened. Some people think that drug abuse is a public health issue and drug users should be offered substance abuse treatment.

Individuals charged with drug possession could face fines and jail time if they are convicted. However, some defendants can avoid these penalties by working with a criminal defense attorney who could look for ways to get the charges dropped or reduced. Legal counsel could also push for a defendant to enter a drug diversion program instead of going to jail.

Source: CBS SF Bay Area, “BART Board Member Wants To Make Drug Use Inside Stations A Felony“, May 23, 2018

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John Patrick Ryan has been practicing law for over 20 years. Experienced in criminal law. U.S. Navy Veteran.