Last year, New York changed some of the most historically harsh drug sentencing laws in the country. Known as the Rockefeller drug laws, they were enacted during the tough on crime 1970s. However, tough on crime wasn’t necessarily effective, locking people up for lengthy sentences on non violent crimes.
Many of the mandatory minimum sentences that were part of these laws were changed last year, saving the lengthy prison sentences for only the worst drug offenders. People accused of possession or people without a criminal record are far more likely to not serve time under the new laws, as it should be.
However, for every move forward, there are people challenging the progress. A few weeks ago in the New York Daily News, an article highlighted the most common complaints about the new laws, citing Special Prosecutor Bridget Brennan as one of the harshest critics. Her, and others’, concern is that the new laws are allowing big time drug dealers to walk on their charges, serving minimum sentences or none at all in exchange for drug treatment.
When the Rockefeller laws were repealed, many people received shortened sentences and some who had previously been subject to prison time were now given the option of drug treatment. Treatment is reserved for the drug addicted though and Brennan states that some high-level dealers are skirting the system by claiming an addiction that simply doesn’t exist.
Judicial diversion is an alternative sentencing practice that allows a drug offender to admit guilt to the charges against them and complete drug treatment. This is in exchange for the charges being dropped in effect. Brennan’s office seems to have objected to nearly half of the defendants applying for judicial diversion, evidence of her opposition to the program.
She states heroin dealers are claiming to be addicted to marijuana to get treatment in lieu of jailtime. However, the ultimate decision to grant diversion is the judge’s and one that the judiciary no doubt takes very seriously. Diversion staff and judges together aren’t new to detecting cons and lies and likely have a pretty good handle on who is trying to bilk the system.
Anthony Papa, communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance claims Brennan is exaggerating the problem, “taking on case and blowing it up”, when she mentions specific dealers who got off with treatment. Because of the philosophy and traditional means by which her department works, this wouldn’t be surprising.
The system should save incarceration for only the most dangerous and unmanageable convicts. Drug users, particularly those suffering from addition, shouldn’t have to spend lengthy periods behind bars where their addictions won’t likely be helped.
If you are facing drug charges and want an attorney to explore all of the potential options available to you, including judicial diversion, contact us today for a defense consultation.