Effects of New York Drug Law Changes

It’s been about a year since major changes were made to the state’s laws regarding drugs. Once held under the strict Rockefeller laws, the state made a move towards rehabilitation and away from lengthy incarcerations for nonviolent drug offenders. So, one year later—what’s happened?

According to the Ithaca Journal, 72 inmates and parolees prosecuted by the New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor applied for resentencing. Seventeen were denied, nineteen were resentenced, and others were still being considered.

The new laws eliminated some strict mandatory minimum sentences, allowing judges more discretion in sentencing. Now, rather than sentencing a first time non-violent offender to a lengthy prison sentence, judges can take their potential success in a drug treatment program into consideration.

Before the laws changed, critics worried these resentenced inmates would just return to the system after being released. Interestingly, the recidivism rate for those released is currently at 7%, far below the state’s average of 41%.

Prior to the changes, judges were required, in some cases, to sentence an offender to harsh prison time even when they believed the punishment didn’t fit the crime. These mandatory minimums are a frequent topic of conflict in legal circles. Now with their discretion restored, judges have far more latitude.

A judge should be able to take the little things into consideration when determining a sentence. Not every crime and not every defendant is the same and their sentences should reflect that. One tool judges use and can now use more readily to determine a sentence is the presentence report.

These reports use background information including employment, criminal history, and community ties to determine if a defendant is a good candidate for probation. Typically written by a probation officer, the judge can now take the information from the report into greater consideration.

If you are facing drug charges in New York you stand to benefit from these new laws if convicted. While no one wants to be on probation, it is far more preferable than a lengthy prison stint. However, the sentence you face also depends on your particular charges.

Contact us to discuss the charges against you and to get some legal advice.

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