In order to penalize drug addicts less and the people who supply them with addictive narcotics more, Minnesota has adopted a series of drug law reforms. The measures were passed earlier in the year after Governor Mark Dayton expressed his desire to sign such a bill as soon as a general consensus was formed. The changes come through unique circumstances, in which there was both bipartisan support as well as support from state prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, and police officers.
Attorney Brock Hunter of The Law Office of Brockton D. Hunter, P.A. in Minneapolis acted as the Defense Bar’s lead advocate for significant reform; Attorney Hunter also serves as the president of the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It was largely through his vision that the ideas of helping drug offenders rather than punishing them began to coalesce into a viable bill. It is anticipated that the biggest hurdles ahead will be deciding where money saved through the drug law reformed will be reallocated, which is a good problem to have.
How the Bill Will Benefit Drug Offenders
The focus of the changes is diverting the harshest penalties for drug possession crimes to alternative resolutions with added treatment options. Rather than sitting in jail for months, a convict could be given probation with mandatory drug counseling. By freeing up cells in prison, the state could see a decrease in both criminal justice system spending and recidivism. Initially, money saved from lesser amounts of incarceration would be spent on drug treatment and rehabilitation courses.
First-degree possession or sale charges will also see a decrease in prison sentence length for crimes involving some of the most dangerous narcotics, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines. Previous statutes required a seven-year incarceration in state prison but the changes can drop that down to just over five years with an option for parole. The minimum weight threshold for first-degree charges have also increased from 10 grams to 17 grams. Second-degree drug sales are also eligible for a four-year probation sentencing instead of only four-year incarceration.
Harsher Penalties Also Included
On the other hand, the reforms intentionally target dangerous or professional drug crime offenders. People committing a drug crime while in possession of a deadly weapon will see increased penalties, as well as those arrested for drug trafficking across state borders and those who represent or deal with a known criminal syndicate or gang. Possessing large amounts of a certain drug could also be used as evidence of intent to sell it, even if no sale was ever recorded or known.
When all of the reforms are considered, it is clear to see that the legislators believe catching criminals at the source of the drug crimes, not the users at the other end of the trail, is beneficial. It may be several years before enough data can be collected to see if the changes actually reduce the number of yearly drug crimes in Minnesota, or if it truly saved the state money. However, it is important to remain optimistic and patient whenever any legal reform of this magnitude is made.
Have you been arrested for a drug crime? The Law Office of Brockton D. Hunter, P.A. and our Minneapolis criminal defense lawyers can represent you in and out of court. Contact us today to learn how we can start your case and protect your rights and good name.