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Defendants accused of selling drugs in San Francisco may face a tougher path to drug court if District Attorney Kamala Harris has her way. A San Francisco Superior Court judge is calling together stakeholders in the diversion program to negotiate a periodic agreement that lays out which criminal defendants are eligible. Participants in drug court — which aims to rehabilitate addicts charged with nonviolent, drug-related felonies — undergo judicially supervised treatment and frequent drug tests to avoid incarceration. Though Harris declined to go public with the specifics of her proposal Monday, she said she’s concerned that drug dealers are taking advantage of a program designed for addicts. “We are acutely aware of the connection between drug sales activities and violent crime,” she said. Public Defender Jeff Adachi maintains that drug court has been “extremely successful” at rehabilitating people facing sales and possession for sale charges. Though he hasn’t met formally with the DA yet, he says he would oppose any attempt to categorically eliminate sales offenses from the list — if that’s what prosecutors have in mind. In fact, his office may be in favor of expanding drug court beyond its current criteria, he said. The most recent memorandum of understanding — which took effect in July 2001 and that the DA’s office says expired in June — lists certain drug possession, possession for sale and sales charges, plus other crimes viewed as offenses that addicts might commit to pay for their habit, such as auto burglary and forgery. It also lists types and quantities of drugs permissible for those charges, such as 2 grams of base cocaine or 30 codeine pills. In the DA’s office, Harris said, “There are cases that we’ve been hearing about where people with multiple drug convictions or with violence in their past have received the benefit of drug court.” Though she didn’t offer specifics, the DA said she is focused on drug sales. “The point is that we don’t want the drug dealer to go to a program that was designed to treat the drug addict.” “It’s important to be compassionate, but at the same time recognize that we have to be compassionate to the neighborhoods that are being plagued by drug dealers,” Harris said. While Adachi concedes “it’s certainly possible” that people occasionally get admitted who shouldn’t be in the program, he points out that the MOU specifies defendants must have a serious underlying substance abuse problem verified by the Department of Public Health. And if participants fail, Adachi noted, they return to the traditional court system. The drug court program admitted 645 participants during the last fiscal year, which ended in June, and a third of participants typically graduate, said drug program analyst Jennifer Pasinosky. Some defendants’ charges are suspended while they try to complete the program, while other participants plead guilty at the outset but have their sentence deferred, according to a 2003 rundown of the court’s policies and procedures. If the eligibility criteria are narrowed, it could affect the caseloads in other criminal courtrooms. Judge Mary Morgan, who supervises the criminal courts and called the meeting, said that “if fewer cases go to drug court, that has the potential for negatively impacting case flow in the criminal court.” But she emphasized that the upcoming meeting is just a starting point. Besides the court, the public defender, the district attorney and the police department, the sheriff’s department, the mayor’s office, adult probation and the city’s department of public health will also take part, Morgan said. If there are any disagreements, the court can’t unilaterally choose eligibility criteria, Morgan said, because the drug court’s grant funding requires all of the stakeholder agencies to cooperate. “It’s purely a matter of negotiation.”

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