SanTana Pot Raid Arraignment Clogs Court

No Medicating happening at Civic Center...
No Medicating happening at Civic Center...
Ronnie Cote/OC Weekly

Remember the itty-bitty pot raid that Santa Ana PD carried out on July 31st? September 2nd was the arraignment for some 123 total marijuana misdemeanor violations. And so far it seems only one out of this smorgasbord of arrestees plead guilty and swallowed the $500 fine. That's right folks. A large number of them waived their right to a speedy trial and are opting to fight the charges.

Judge Odriozola presided and, as the morning wore on, became more and more irritated with the city attorney. He repeatedly scolded the city attorneys for neglecting to make police reports available to the arrestees or their attorneys. What made matters worse for him was the sheer volume of arrestees. Because of the mass-arrests and lack of available documents for those who were arrested, court was essentially just scheduling a trial date for everyone involved. Odriozola called the use of resources on infractionable charges a "big problem;" it's understandable, since the misdemeanor court was solely occupied by medical marijuana violations for the day. All other misdemeanors, DUIs and domestic violence disputes included, had to be handled by a different department.

"It became more and more clear that the city attorney's office basically flooded the courthouse to the point where the entire courtroom had to be shut down and only handle these pot ticket cases. So the regular calendar had to be transferred to an entirely different department, which was a huge drain on resources," said Chris Glew, longtime medical marijuana trial lawyer, who represented the folks at Aloha CCA. When asked about the police report for the raids, Glew responded, "I asked for the police report, the city attorneys could not provide it, but the court did. And the court got upset and [the judge] even made the comment, 'how do we have it, the court, but you don't have it?' and that's when he told the city attorney, 'maybe i'll print out a copy so you can read it too.'"

The Santa Ana city council didn't make any progress that evening either, as they voted, once more, to delay discussion of the $500,000 for medical marijuana enforcement until the next meeting in two weeks. Public comment saw the city slammed for misallocation of resources, with the controversial homeless shelter and gang prevention named as possible better uses of tax dollars. Homeless advocates, not solely marijuana activists, criticized "outdated" tactics implemented by city officials in enforcing the dispensary ban in recent weeks. Pro-pot speakers voiced that the money should be allocated toward the legal fees the raids are incurring, as the ongoing litigation appears to be growing into an expensive process.

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City Attorney Sonia Carvalho did not respond to attempts to reach her for comment.

Trial is set for October 6th. If each individual pursues a full-fledged court trial, the city of Santa Ana may see up to 79 trials for medical marijuana affiliates. If a full 12 jurors are called for each case, almost 950 jurors in total would be selected; this number isn't including all the possible jurors who would be called for voir dire, which is likely much higher. This is alongside the growing tally of legal costs the raids are incurring. It remains to be seen if the trials can be consolidated in order to conserve money and taxpayer time.

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