Drug Cases Flooded DA’s Office in 2021

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“There’s a new gold rush in California, but now it’s green,” said Mariposa County District Attorney Walter Wall. He was referencing the 160 drug cases referred to his office for prosecution in 2021, in particular the scores of cases involving marijuana.

There is an extensive list of penal code violations throughout the 160 cases, ranging from the possession or sale of methamphetamine or other illegal substance, conspiracy to commit a crime, being under the influence of drugs, possession of drugs while in custody, and a plethora of charges involving marijuana.

Just under half of the case files include individuals with Mariposa County addresses, a total of 76. Several other California residence addresses are recorded, and some stretch the width of the country, all the way to New York and Pennsylvania.

Some 50 cases involve felony charges, which can carry significant jail or prison time. At the end of the year, just 16 cases were listed as “active,” which designates that those cases are still in the prosecution process.

Just nine cases are listed as “dismissed.” Wall explained that those cases most likely contain one of three elements that would require the charges to be dismissed. “There may be no witness statements or other significant factors, we may be unable to attach criminal activity to the issue, or there could be an excuse or exception, possibly even confusion of some sort,” Wall said.

There are 31 misdemeanor cases where the defendant received diversion. To qualify for diversion, the defendant must have no priors and no other criminal record. They must admit their violation of the law and promise to never do it again in the future. They must be a law-abiding citizen during the term of their diversion period. The court decides all terms and conditions of the diversion, which can be up to one year, but is occasionally six months.

A total of 33 cases indicates a status of failure to appear (FTA). “FTA is a huge plague. A lot of these cases involve people from another country,” said Wall. He said, “Thanks to the ‘three-non’ factors of AB-109 (California state statute) rules; non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual, they are all released. Then they are gone. There’s a mountain of outstanding FTA warrants at the sheriff’s office.”

That is probably the case of the two individuals who were arrested on April 6 in a sheriff’s office garden raid that yielded 1,400 marijuana plants. Within two days, both suspects were released, and probably won’t be seen again.

(Data and statistics for this report were provided by Catherine Chase of the Mariposa County District Attorney’s Office.)

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