Drug Crime Sentencing - New Laws Effective Today

Effective today – Aug. 1 – Minnesota’s drug laws received a much needed update for drug crime sentencing. An antiquated system more in tune with the failed “War on Drugs” from previous decades is finally abolished in favor of greater flexibility for judges, allowing them to impose alternative sentencing options, which often are focused on treatment and programming. Here are a couple highlights of the new drug crime sentencing laws.

Drug Offender Grid –

An obvious change is a new sentencing grid devoted entirely to drug crime sentencing. Like the standard sentencing grid, certain crimes are presumed stay custody time, while others are presumptive commitments. But, as it will be explained next, mandatory minimums are for only certain and fewer crimes for subsequent offenses – making the presumptive stays that much more meaningful.

Subsequent Controlled Substance Offenses –

Before this law change, subsequent drug crime convictions led to mandatory minimums for all crimes – even minor, 5th degree cases. The result was the wrong people were serving significant time for non-serious offenses. And, even when individuals took positive rehabilitation steps before sentencing, judges still felt compelled to impose the mandatory time. Thankfully, this draconian policy has subsided.

Now, mandatory minimums for subsequent offenses only occur when the new offense is for a first- or second-degree drug crime. In those instances, the mandatory minimum is a presumptive commitment to prison for various length of years. This means that if you are facing a subsequent offense for third-, fourth-, or fifth-degree offenses, you are no longer facing a minimum of 2 years, 1 year, or 6 months, respectively. As mentioned before, this allows for much greater flexibility in sentencing and more negotiating room. And, if a defendant has been proactive in addressing a chemical dependency problem before sentencing, it will lead to a much better sentence and more just sentence given the circumstances.

These are two of the major changes in the drug crime sentencing law. But, far more nuances exist that require a skilled and experienced drug crime attorney to best counsel a defendant through his or her charge.