Oregon County Decriminalizes Heroin, Meth and Shoplifting

District Attorney Mike Schrunk

When criminal laws and justice are pushed to aside because of insufficient funds, should we start questioning the laws or those who enforce them? Multnomah County’s DA has decided that those who commit “small crimes” (such as possession of meth or heroin, hit-and-run accidents, and shoplifting) are better off with receiving a fine instead of being arrested. The Oregonian reports:

After years of budget cuts, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schrunk says he’s had no choice but to stop prosecuting dozens of illegal acts as crimes.

Among them, most addicts caught with small amounts of drugs such as heroin, cocaine or meth; first- or second-time shoplifters caught stealing anything worth less than $250; suspects who resist arrest, or who run away from police officers; drivers who hit and run, as long as they have insurance when they are caught.

Multnomah County is treating those offenses as violations — similar to being cited with a speeding ticket. Pay the fine and walk free. There’s no threat of jail time and no probation.

Continues at The Oregonian

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  • Haystack

    The article frames the issue as “It’s just too bad, but we can’t afford to pay for this anymore,” instead of taking a broader view of whether some of our law enforcement policies are even rational. As the article points out, they cost a lot of money; at the same time, it’s questionable whether it would be desirable to prosecute a first-time shoplifter, or a low-level drug offender, even if it were free to do so. If you’re putting people in jail for stuff like that, you’re making it harder for them to get/keep decent jobs and integrate into your community–and what effect will that have on your local economy and crime rates down the road?

    To me this seems like enlightened law enforcement, not a cut-back to be regretted.

    Plus I’ve always had a sense that resisting arrest was fair play. Committing a crime, and then trying to get away with it, shouldn’t count as two separate offenses. *g*

    • Blackoutdustin

      sometimes police arrest people ONLY for resisting arrest. if that happened to me i would have to show up to court and just go, “…what?”

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4K3KM67XITZTXUE45K42KS4OEE brian

        How can you be arrested for ONLY resisting arrest? Does that mean that they are arresting you for resisting the arrest of you resisting arrest???? Why can’t I wrap my head around this notion without resorting to having to think of a ‘Time Loop Paradox’ episode of Star Trek The Next Generation. 

  • Haystack

    The article frames the issue as “It’s just too bad, but we can’t afford to pay for this anymore,” instead of taking a broader view of whether some of our law enforcement policies are even rational. As the article points out, they cost a lot of money; at the same time, it’s questionable whether it would be desirable to prosecute a first-time shoplifter, or a low-level drug offender, even if it were free to do so. If you’re putting people in jail for stuff like that, you’re making it harder for them to get/keep decent jobs and integrate into your community–and what effect will that have on your local economy and crime rates down the road?

    To me this seems like enlightened law enforcement, not a cut-back to be regretted.

    Plus I’ve always had a sense that resisting arrest was fair play. Committing a crime, and then trying to get away with it, shouldn’t count as two separate offenses. *g*

  • Butter Knife

    Sounds to me like the police are being realists about what they can actually do and accomplish with the time and resources they have. I’ll bet some “tough on crime” schmuck will run on a platform of curbing such rational, and dare I say ‘fiscally responsible”, behavior… that and cutting taxes, because clearly people are turning to crime over that extra $35 a year on their property taxes.

  • Butter Knife

    Sounds to me like the police are being realists about what they can actually do and accomplish with the time and resources they have. I’ll bet some “tough on crime” schmuck will run on a platform of curbing such rational, and dare I say ‘fiscally responsible”, behavior… that and cutting taxes, because clearly people are turning to crime over that extra $35 a year on their property taxes.

  • Blackoutdustin

    sometimes police arrest people ONLY for resisting arrest. if that happened to me i would have to show up to court and just go, “…what?”

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    It does make a curious example of comparative morality. Now that times are tight and budgets are crashing like zeppelins…suddenly the crimes that were once a plague on humanity are just petty irritants and only the really unforgivable classics (rape, murder, etc) are worth taking time and money to prosecute.

    The cynic in me doubts that this sudden clarity of purpose will last beyond the next boom cycle. Once times get good and budgets are bulging there will be all the usual exhortations for law and order and lamentations about the perils of drugs and the need for “tough love”.

    • Ironaddict06

      Yea, I think this will only last until there are 2 equal politicans running. One claiming that minor crimes are harming the children.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    It does make a curious example of comparative morality. Now that times are tight and budgets are crashing like zeppelins…suddenly the crimes that were once a plague on humanity are just petty irritants and only the really unforgivable classics (rape, murder, etc) are worth taking time and money to prosecute.

    The cynic in me doubts that this sudden clarity of purpose will last beyond the next boom cycle. Once times get good and budgets are bulging there will be all the usual exhortations for law and order and lamentations about the perils of drugs and the need for “tough love”.

  • oman28

    An interesting one. I wonder how the decision is made as to what acts are no longer criminal
    – and who gets to make it?

  • Anonymous

    An interesting one. I wonder how the decision is made as to what acts are no longer criminal
    – and who gets to make it?

  • SikterEfendi

    Looks like economy is going to fix what common sense was unable to. Maybe they’ll eventually stop calling the US “incarceration nation”…

  • Anonymous

    Looks like economy is going to fix what common sense was unable to. Maybe they’ll eventually stop calling the US “incarceration nation”…

  • Ironaddict06

    Yea, I think this will only last until there are 2 equal politicans running. One claiming that minor crimes are harming the children.

  • JOregon

    I, not being proud of it, have been effected by these laws, The fines are no where close to a speeding ticket. i.e. 85 in a 55 would result in a 242$ fine in Oregon. Now with a shoplifting charge the fine is around 800$, some being larger and smaller base fines. Under an ounce of Marijuana in the county can rage from 100 to 800 with any amount of weed under an ounce. Coming from experience with all the fines I described above, I won’t be doing any of those things again. No need for jail or probation. My wallet is penalty enough.

  • JOregon

    I, not being proud of it, have been effected by these laws, The fines are no where close to a speeding ticket. i.e. 85 in a 55 would result in a 242$ fine in Oregon. Now with a shoplifting charge the fine is around 800$, some being larger and smaller base fines. Under an ounce of Marijuana in the county can rage from 100 to 800 with any amount of weed under an ounce. Coming from experience with all the fines I described above, I won’t be doing any of those things again. No need for jail or probation. My wallet is penalty enough.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4K3KM67XITZTXUE45K42KS4OEE brian

    How can you be arrested for ONLY resisting arrest? Does that mean that they are arresting you for resisting the arrest of you resisting arrest???? Why can’t I wrap my head around this notion without resorting to having to think of a ‘Time Loop Paradox’ episode of Star Trek The Next Generation. 

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