California Court Limits Treatment Under Proposition 36

The California Supreme Court ruled that Proposition 36, the voter-approved law that provides treatment instead of prison for drug users, is not applicable to people convicted of driving under the influence of drugs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported May 28.

The court weighed in on the law’s intent in the case of Michelle Canty, who was sentenced to six months in prison for driving under the influence of methamphetamine in 2001. Canty had sought referral to a treatment program instead of jail.

The 2000 state law mandates probation and treatment for individuals convicted of possessing drugs or drug paraphernalia, using drugs, or similar activities. Specific activities are not defined in the law. However, the law excludes crimes “not related to the use of drugs.” The state’s high court ruled unanimously that driving under the influence is among the excluded crimes.

Chief Justice Ronald George said that laws against drug use protect the user, while DUI laws protect the public. He added that including driving under the influence of drugs in Proposition 36 would undermine the state’s drunk-driving laws.