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New law allows discretion in drug cases

Updated: March 14, 2013 6:33AM

HIGHLAND PARK — The City Council on Monday night gave its administrative hearing officers the power to adjudicate cases with substance abuse counseling or attendance in an educational program.

The counseling requirement could be part of the community service meted out, along with fines, for offenses involving illegal consumption or possession of alcohol, marijuana and controlled substances.

The council also added a ban on drug paraphernalia to the city code so that violators can be directed to an administrative hearing officer, rather than funneled into the court system.

Previously, police officers who encountered an offender with items linked to illegal drug use or sales had no choice but to charge the accused under state statute because no local ordinance was on the books.

“The trend with many law enforcement agencies is to streamline minor drug offenses,” explained Deputy Police Chief David Schwartz. “This ordinance will permit officers on the street to more easily process minor illegal drug paraphernalia offenses, allowing them to more swiftly become available to respond to calls for service.”

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