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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Only 3% of drug cases lead to big charges

Cases involving personal use compared to all other drug-related crimes by jurisdiction.

Government office says there is a lot of wasted resources on pursuing consumers

A lot of wasted effort and resources. This appears to be the conclusion that the Office of Drug Crime (Procunar) reached when it analyzed the actions of police forces and the judicial system against illegal drugs in the country.

Only three percent of drug cases result in contraband-related charges — meaning that most police and legal resources are being used to pursue individual drug users, Procunar said in a recent report.

Some 38 percent of cases filed in relations to violations of the Narcotics Law concern personal use, as 9,414 out of 24,599 cases initiated in 2012 were for violations of article 14 of law 23,737, which is currently punishable by a prison sentence of between one month and two years.

Even though a 2009 Supreme Court ruling known as the “Arriola ruling” declared that it was unconstitutional to enforce that article, a number of requirements that formed part of that decision ended up creating a gray area and police have continued to arrest drug users, leaving the decision as to whether the case fits within the Arriola standard in the hands of judges.

This means that even though locking someone up for possession of drugs for personal use is technically unconstitutional, a lack of legislation means it is up to judges to decide how far they want to interpret the wishes of the Supreme Court.

Although most of the cases involving personal use end up getting “forced rehabilitation,” law enforcement agencies end up spending “an enormous effort requiring innumerable hours of work, and all this maybe because of some kids smoking weed in the park,” as Félix Crous, head of Procunar, told the daily La Nación.

Going after minor consumers

According to the report, 67 percent of the cases were initiated by security forces.

“However, the information registered in our system crossed with interviews with prosecutors from different jurisdictions leads us to believe the real proportion is closer to 80 percent,” Crous added.

“This means the system of going after small consumers (of illegal drugs), not major drug-traffickers,” Crous said. “This explains part of the phenomenon.”

Procunar also took aim at the poor results of defederalization of drug laws that became effective after the law 26,052 was approved in 2005.

Provinces like Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Salta — which ratified the law — were then able to lead cases involving small amounts of drugs, but according to Procunar this led “to a continuing decrease of the amount and quality of more serious cases.”

“From a federal perspective, the ability to solve more complex crimes has diminished considerably,” the office led by Crous concluded. “Experience proves (defederalization) has failed.”

Herald staff

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