Sentencing: California Governor Signs Bill Amending Proposition 36, Is Immediately Sued

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that substantially alters the state's voter-approved Prop 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law. One of the authors of the measure, which mandates treatment not jail for first- and second-time drug offenders, immediately filed suit to block the law from going into effect.

The bill, which was tacked onto a budget bill and passed last month, allows "flash incarceration" of up to five days for people who have failed to participate in treatment programs. Championed by law enforcement and drug court professionals, the new law stands in stark contrast with the initiative approved by the voters, who approved Prop 36's "no jail" provisions by a wide margin. Under California laws, substantive changes in voter-approved initiatives must be done by the voters, not the legislature.

Prop 36 coauthor Cliff Gardner filed his lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court. He is being represented by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) attorney Daniel Abrahamson. "Rather than veto SB 1137, the Governor opted to engage in a legal battle over what he knows is an unconstitutional law," said Abrahamson in a statement. "We have filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, and are confident that Prop 36 and the will of the people will be upheld."

But Lisa Fisher, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, told the Associated Press the state would enforce the law unless a judge orders it not to. "We think that the reforms are furthering the purposes of Proposition 36," she said. "The one thing we have learned over the years is that jail sanctions need to be part of a whole package of sanctions that an individual can expect."

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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