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Drug Dealer Protection Act

Drug Dealer Protection Act

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Published by elegantpride
I blast the Daily News over the "Drug Dealer Protection Act"
I blast the Daily News over the "Drug Dealer Protection Act"

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Published by: elegantpride on Nov 19, 2009
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11/18/2009

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An editorial in the
 New York Daily News
, “Saying Yes to Drugs,” recently warned us thata new bill designed to reform New York’s infamous Rockefeller drug laws and passed in theAssembly, “would push New York dangerously close to decriminalizing even hard-core drugs.”It dubs the legislation, “The Drug Dealer Protection Act” and then enumerates the bill’s horrors,which add up to a “game of Russian roulette.” We should all be scared to death, unless weactually knew that criminalization of drugs, even the really hard core ones, produces the actualcrime of which we should be afraid.Decriminalization of drug use, abuse, and petty possession is the very heart of drug lawreform; it is no secret. Reformation of the Rockefeller laws entails reduction of draconian prisonsentences, restoration of judicial discretion in sentencing offenders, and the realization that druguse and addiction is a medical rather than criminal problem. The
 Daily News
, however, wouldhave you believe that the bill is somehow disingenuous about its decriminalization intentions because “only a close reading of the measure reveals that little-understood provisions” wouldresult in decriminalization. This is a scare tactic.Among the “little-understood provisions” is the elimination of the statutory mandate thatimputes knowing possession to anyone present in a dwelling or vehicle containing narcotics,regardless of who actually owns the drugs. According to the law, presence alone is “presumptiveevidence” of possession. A presumption permits juries to deduce that a defendant knowingly possessed the substance due to his mere presence in the automobile or house, absent proof of actual possession. This presumption is an evidentiary advantage for the prosecution, who must prove every element of the crime, because it is a shortcut in the proof, and an evidentiarydisadvantage to the defendant, who must rebut the presumption in order to counteract its persuasiveness. This places the defendant in the unconstitutional position of proving his owninnocence, which is presumed.
 
The Assembly bill replaces the presumption standard with “permissible inference.”Under the permissible inference standard, juries are permitted but not required to infer  possession from presence. Essentially, this is an attempt to eliminate the guilt by proximity thatthe old standard imputed.
The Daily News
classifies this as one of the bill’s “many dangerous provisions.”The only danger is that defendants will no longer take the rap, as did Lance A. Marrow,for drugs that do not belong to them. In the case of Mr. Marrow, who received 15 years to lifefor possession of drugs that belonged to his roommate, the sentencing judge said, ‘I am required by law to impose a sentence that in my view you don’t deserve.”
The Daily News
however, bemoans that district attorneys would now have to persuade juries the old fashioned way – withactual evidence of the defendant’s guilt. It fails to acknowledge the existing law’s promulgationof wildly inequitable cases such as Lance Marrow’s.
The Daily News’ 
histrionic characterization of the Assembly bill as one that “wouldeviscerate the power of law enforcement to combat thugs who terrorize New York’s poorestneighborhoods” is subterfuge designed to obscure the fact that a penal approach to drug policy isan abominable failure, in terms of combating drug use. It is a blazing success however, atgenerating a profitable economic sector for the state. Prisons produce jobs, especially incommunities where nothing much else grows. And within those prisons are downstate denizenswho count as constituents for the purpose of drawing a senatorial district, most of which areoccupied by Republicans.

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