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Drug reform laws reduce racial disparities in arrests

As the public's view toward some drugs evolves in Texas, the results of drug law reforms in other places have eased racial disparities among people who get arrested. After California passed a proposition that changed some felony drug offenses to misdemeanors, researchers detected a drop in the disparity between arrested blacks and whites. From a disparity rating of 81 per 100,000 felony drug arrests, the difference dropped to 44 per 100,000 after only one month since the effective date of the law.

The researchers continued to collect data over five years from approximately one million drug arrests. The disparity between whites and Latinos remained largely unchanged, but the reduction in black arrests could have a positive influence on that community.

The study reported that felony drug convictions that have long fallen heavily upon minorities often produce long-term consequences that reduce access to jobs, education, housing and health care. The reclassification of some drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors could likely cut down on the negative side effects of convictions. Eventually, the socioeconomic differences between blacks and whites could shrink.

Because serious consequences could arise when a person faces charges for drug crimes, the representation of an attorney might aid a person after an arrest. An attorney could help an alleged offender obtain release on bail and then develop a defense strategy. Violations of the defendant's Constitutional rights by law enforcement might enable an attorney to challenge some evidence. Testimony from questionable sources may create another opportunity to call for the removal of evidence. An attorney's evaluation of the remaining evidence could help the defendant make a decision between going to trial or pursuing a plea bargain.

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