People from all walks of life and demographics can face drug charges in Minnesota. The so-called war on drugs has led to overcrowding in prisons without much impact on overall drug abuse, as this blog discussed in March. At that time, legislators were considering a bill to retroactively reduce drug-related sentences.
Late last year, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission created a plan to reduce prison crowding by reducing the presumptive sentences for many drug crimes that was slated to go into effect on August 1st. Lawmakers have stepped in to circumvent that plan from going into effect with new reforms that will take effect instead.
New sentencing guidelines focus on drug sales
The reform is aimed at treating dealers and users differently. Harsh sentences continue to be a focus for people convicted of selling drugs or for those convicted of possessing a firearm in connection with a drug offense. Sentences related to drug possession cases allow for more lenient sentencing, including allowing for treatment and probation, rather than lengthy prison time.
In addition to sentencing reform, the new law raises the threshold weight for some first-degree charges from 10 grams to 17. First-degree charges involving heroin will continue to require proof of 10 grams of the substance, as lawmakers note that heroin is typically sold in smaller amounts than cocaine or methamphetamine.
Prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers and lawmakers worked together to reach a compromise to reduce the impact on prisons and allow room to help people with addictions to overcome their drug abuse problems. While the reforms generally reduce the potential exposure to prison time for most people accused of a drug crime, it is as important as ever to seek the representation of an experienced criminal defense lawyer if you are accused of any level of drug offense.
Sentencing is imposed after a conviction is entered. Your rights are too important to relax in the hopes that reduced prison sentences will be less to fight over. Even if you do not serve time, the long-term adverse impact of a drug conviction on your record can haunt you for years to come.