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California Proposition 36 Drug Program Participation Credits Apply Against Subsequent Probation Revocation

California Proposition 36 Drug Program Participation Credits Apply Against Subsequent Probation Revocation

The California Court of Appeal, Second District, held that when a prisoner convicted of drug possession but granted Proposition 36 probation to attend a drug treatment program in lieu of incarceration violates his probation terms, the time he participated in the program must be credited against his resulting prison sentence.

Earl Davenport was found guilty of drug possession in September 2004, but the court granted probation pursuant to Proposition 36, California’s rehabilitative alternative to prison for certain drug offenders. In May 2006, following violation of his probation, he was sentenced to two years in state prison. The court awarded Davenport earlier pre-conviction jail credits, but refused to award post-conviction program participation credits available under California Penal Code (CPC) § 2900.5. While the language of § 2900.5 makes it clear that credits are available for time spent in a “rehabilitation facility,” that penal section predated Proposition 36. The trial court felt that the “alternative-to-incarceration” principle embodied in Proposition 36 overrode § 2900.5 as to subsequent post-conviction program credit availability.

The appellate court disagreed. It found compelling precedent in two California Supreme Court cases holding that “the provisions of ... § 2900.5 ... apply to custodial time in a residential treatment facility as well as straight county jail time.” The court focused on the guiding principle that the alternative placement must be “custodial” in nature, wherein the “custody” related to the conduct for which the defendant had been convicted. The fact that Proposition 36 offered an alternative to incarceration (i.e., “in lieu of imprisonment in county jail”) did not extinguish the custodial label attaching to attendance at the drug treatment program.

The appeals court reversed the trial court after further observing that there was no evidence that Davenport’s time spent in the Volunteers of America program did not qualify as a drug treatment program. The court ordered immediate application of the credit time rather than a remand, due to Davenport’s impending release date. “There is no point in reducing defendant’s meritorious pursuit of custody credits to a Pyrrhic victory,” the appellate court observed. See: People v. Davenport, 148 Cal.App.4th 240, 55 Cal.Rptr.3d 473 (Cal.App. 2 Dist. 2007).

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Related legal case

People v. Davenport