County Attorney Formally Asks ACLU To Stop Saying Factual Things About Pending Drug Legislation

from the please-stop-undermining-my-spin dept

A state prosecutor who claims to be supportive of lowering drug possession incarceration rates is mad at the ACLU for pointing out the legislation she’s backing doesn’t support this position at all. The ACLU’s activism has led to the county attorney’s unfortunate decision to send a formal letter to the group kindly asking it to knock it off. (via the ACLU’s Will Gaona)

In response to an online campaign, Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall sent a letter to the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona asking that it “cease and desist from disseminating a misleading solicitation.”

The ACLU was “dumbfounded” by the letter, which it found to be without “legal merit,” a spokesman told the Star.

Earlier this month, the civil-rights group urged people to contact LaWall and ask her to withdraw her support for House Bill 2241, which would increase penalties for people convicted of several crimes involving certain opiates, including heroin and fentanyl.

“This is a dangerous bill that will force Arizonans suffering from drug addiction into prisons for years without treatment,” a March 19 ACLU of Arizona Facebook post reads. “Take action now and tell Barbara LaWall to publicly withdraw her support for HB 2241!”

As cease-and-desists go, LaWall’s is pretty low-key. The letter [PDF] notes LaWall is not complaining about the people who’ve contacted her office as a result of the ACLU’s post. She’s also not requesting the ACLU say nothing more about the issue. Instead, she’s asking the ACLU to correct its “misinformation.”

Contrary to the statement disseminated in the ACLUs solicitation, HB 2241 does NOT punish individual drug users who possess or use these drugs to feed their addictions, and it is highly misleading to suggest that HB 2241 would punish drug users by sending them to prison. This Bill increases the sentence for convicted drug traffickers and drug dealers who flood our community with the deadly poisons of fentanyl, carfentanyl, and heroin. It docs NOT punish those who are arrested for simple drug possession.

This is not even technically true. Under LaWall’s guidance, the county has already incarcerated people for possessing as little as one-tenth gram of heroin. Statewide, more than 20% of drug felony cases involve less than one gram. The ACLU’s opposition to the bill stems from the lack of language separating those who sell small amounts to fund their own habits from those actually “flooding” communities with large quantities of opioids. Even drugs traded for anything of value — no matter what quantity — would trigger mandatory minimum five-year sentences for those convicted.

LaWall’s letter has prompted an angry response from the ACLU, which believes the letter was sent to intimidate it into silence. All the ACLU has done is point out the flaws with the bill and that it runs contrary to LaWall’s publicly-stated support for reducing drug-related incarcerations. LaWall’s response to the ACLU’s criticism — no matter how mildly stated — is still a demand the ACLU stop making factual statements about the bill she supports.

It’s not that LaWall is unaware of these criticisms. Earlier debate on the bill produced the same criticism the ACLU is now being asked to stop: that the bill would result in more incarceration and less diversion of addicts to resource that may allow them to kick the habit and return successfully to society.

But anything drug-related — especially bills attempting to address drug overdoses — is going to be propelled more by emotion than logic, as is evidenced by this statement from a supportive state legislator.

Explaining his vote in support of the bill, state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said: “I don’t care how much one person hands off to another. If somebody is selling dope to my kid, I want them in prison.”

Well, let’s hope your kid doesn’t get caught with any purchased drugs, Mr. Finchem. If they do, the new law does them no favors. Considering prosecutors are viewing amounts less than a gram as felonious — with the possibility of tacking on distribution charges if Finchem’s child has shared or sold any to others — his offspring could be facing five years minimum just for purchasing enough drugs to feed their own habit. The bill doesn’t absolve purchasers, nor make it any easier for them to end up in a diversion program, rather than in jail.

The ACLU’s criticisms are valid. The county attorney’s request the ACLU stop portraying the legislation as opposed to LaWall’s stated beliefs is not. Fortunately, neither the bill nor LaWall’s demands are moving forward at this point. It’s always a bad look when public servants start telling members of the public to exercise their First Amendment rights less. But it’s even worse when this attempt starts with the public servant calling facts “misinformation.”

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Comments on “County Attorney Formally Asks ACLU To Stop Saying Factual Things About Pending Drug Legislation”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

‘If somebody is selling dope to my kid, I want them in prison.’

Cool story bro, can we also throw your ass in jail for abdicating your role as a parent & expecting the law to protect them so you can be their buddy & not their parent?

Drug use doesn’t start like it says in after-school specials, but so many parents are to busy being buddies to actually pay attention to the changes in their kids. How about you raise your fscking kids & stop shoving addicts into a system that can offer them nothing but pain & kill off any hope of making a comeback because those spiffy felony charges totally make it possible for them to rejoin society & not force them into the darkside of hopelessness where drugs are the only escape.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you are going to support a bill, at least have the courage to be truthful about what the bill will do. I understand it will necessitate reading the bill, but is that really so difficult? I thought it was part of the job description but apparently it is not. I would not be comfortable signing something I had not read, but maybe I’m weird that way.

Jinxed (profile) says:

Another prime example of “I believe this bill is written to cover the issue while I completely ignore what the bill actually says as written.”

I’m firmly with the belief these are intentionally misdirected as to leave open “anything we didn’t cover”, with the “intention” only the “bad” people will get caught.

Good representation of the buyer, and typical politician thinking who believes it’s the seller that’s the problem.

It takes two to make a transaction.

ECA (profile) says:


If you Make a min max in the law..
Why not goto the ‘CREATOR’ of the drug..

99% of this is the Doctors, but that because there isnt a solution to the problem..(no fix to PAIN)..
And the group that makes the drugs?? The Drug COMPANIES.

But the Companies will say, “we make the drug, we dont give it to them”..

Long ago, Doctors learned a few things..
1. the Body LOVES to fix itself if given ENOUGH TIME..
2. if we kill the pain, the Symptom, the body MAY/SHOULD fix itself.
3. then they STOPPED looking for cause and affect.. they didnt NEED TO..they had 1 solution..(did you know that if you break the bones in your foot, they cant fix it??)

tin-foil-hat says:


For years they blamed doctors for undertreating pain. Then the drug companies promote painkillers so they can treat the pain they were undertreating.

They still undertreat pain, even more so now that the moral panic started. When cancer patients kill themselves they drag the family members into court for not supervising them enough and facilitating their suicide.

You can’t win and it looks like that is by design.

tin-foil-hat says:


You’re right. When someone is young the body fixes itself in general. Eventually that isn’t the case. At age 70 people have a right to have quality of life. They shouldn’t have to live with the pain. Nobody should be able to impose that on their behalf. Politicians and prosecutors have decided they will be the arbitors of pain control and by default quality of life. There’s a lot of lying going on in this new war on drugs. When the facts don’t exactly match the narrative. Lie. We’ve been here before.

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