Monday, March 21, 2005

People v. Guzman

The Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 (enacted through Proposition 36) requires courts to order probation and drug treatment, instead of incarceration, for certain "nonviolent drug possession offenses" (NDPOs). In this case, the Court rejected an Equal Protection challenge to the Act.

Guzman served 8 months in jail for inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant. While out on probation Guzman pled guilty, in a separate action, to drug possession charges which qualified as NDPOs. For these, he was granted probation and treatment as required by the Act.

The state later petitioned to revoke the probation Guzman received from the domestic abuse case. Guzman filed a "Motion to Compel Drug Treatment Pursuant to Prop. 36." The trial court found that Guzman had violated his probation, denied his motion for drug treatment, and imposed the 2-year mitigated prison term from the domestic abuse conviction.

If a person on parole after a conviction for a non-NDPO later commits a NDPO, the Act prohibits the state from revoking that person's parole. However, the Act does not provide similar protection to defendants who commit an NDPO while on probation for a non-NDPO offense. Guzman argued that this constituted an equal protection violation, and the Court of Appeal agreed with him.

In a unanimous opinion, available here, the CA S. Ct. reversed today. It concluded that probationers like Guzman, who commit an NDPO while still on probation for a non-NDPO, are not "similarly situated" to parolees who commit an NDPO after completing a prison term for a non-NDPO. Thus, affording disparate treatment to the 2 classes is not an equal protection violation.


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