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California Legislation Permitting NVDP Incarceration Held Unconstitutional

California Legislation Permitting NVDP Incarceration Held Unconstitutional

by Mark Wilson

The California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, held on January 20, 2015 that a section of California’s realignment legislation improperly amended Proposition 36, a voter initiative, in violation of the state constitution.

In 2000, California voters enacted Prop 36, which requires substance abuse treatment rather than incarceration for nonviolent drug offenders. Prop 36 prohibits the Board of Parole Hearings from revoking parole and incarcerating a parolee based on the commission of a nonviolent drug possession offense (NVDP) or violation of a drug-related parole condition.

In 2011, the California legislature enacted realignment legislation, including the Post-release Community Supervision Act (PCSA). The PCSA mandates that certain felons released from prison be placed on post-release community supervision rather than parole. Section 3455 of the PCSA authorizes the revocation of supervision and incarceration of offenders who violate their community supervision by committing an NVDP.

In 2011, Evan Taylor Armogeda was convicted of possessing a controlled substance. After serving a prison term he was released on community supervision. His supervision was revoked eight months later when he committed new drug-related crimes; the trial court sentenced him to 90 days in jail and ordered him to enter drug treatment following his release.

Instead, Armogeda was quickly re-arrested for possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia. The court again revoked his supervision and sentenced him to 60 days in jail. Armogeda appealed, arguing that section 3455 violates the state constitution by improperly amending Prop 36.

The California Court of Appeal agreed, holding that “as applied to NVDP offenders, the clear effect of section 3455 is to amend Proposition 36.”

“The Act ‘has simply applied a new label to a parolee who otherwise would be afforded treatment in lieu of incarceration,’” the appellate court wrote. “Section 3455 authorizes incarceration for an NVDP, ‘when that sanction would be prohibited by Proposition 36.’”

Accordingly, the Court of Appeal concluded that “As applied to nonviolent drug possession offenders and violators of drug-related conditions of postrelease community supervision, section 3455, which permits the incarceration of those persons under circumstances not permitted by Proposition 36, unconstitutionally amends Proposition 36 and to that extent is invalid.” See: People v. Armogeda, 233 Cal. App. 4th 428 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2015).


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Related legal case

People v. Armogeda