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Drug Sentencing Reform Minnesota

Drugs are a major problem in our society leaving many individuals trapped in a vicious cycle that controls their lives. The desperation caused by drugs can lead individuals to make very serious decisions with very serious consequences. Often, those consequences become part of a circle leading to deeper desperation and reliance upon substances. How do we help individuals suffering with addictions who also are facing serious legal ramifications? How do we separate those individuals in need of help from individuals who feed habits by supplying the substances?[1]

Recently, Minnesota adopted changes that will have a true and immediate impact on sentences for drug related crimes. Next week, on August 1st, these new drug sentencing laws go into  effect.[2] The changes are aimed at reducing punishments for addicts; and increasing punishments for those feeding the addictions (i.e. the dealers).

The new laws will allow for tougher sentences on drug dealers, especially when individuals brandish a firearm, or have a firearm within immediate reach, when conducting a drug sale. A dealer does not have to use the weapon to commit the sale, just the mere fact that a gun was on his or her person while committing a controlled substance crime in the first degree creates a mandatory minimum sentence of 86 months. This law has the ability to decrease violence if the added sentence actually deters individuals from carrying firearms while conducting a sale of a controlled substance.

The new laws also have multiple compassionate components to it; focusing on those using drugs and implementing ways to aid those individuals in their ongoing struggles. The new law removes mandatory sentences for controlled substance crimes in the third, fourth, and fifth degrees. Many individuals who would otherwise receive some length of a prison term may remain outside of the prison walls and in a better position to receive treatment. The new legislation also includes deferred prosecutions for certain offenders. Because probationary sentences in these situations will focus on substance abuse treatment, individuals who successfully complete probation can get their case dismissed.

The war on drugs has been raging for some time now. Shifting the focus from a war-like relationship between the government and drug users to a partnership will allow individuals to seek and receive life altering treatment without automatically receiving the stigma of a controlled substance offender. Substance addiction is a disease that requires treatment and compassion. Minnesota’s new law will show compassion where appropriate while still attempting to stem the flow of drugs. Less people addicted to drugs will create less opportunity for those drugs to be sold. Undoubtedly the law will not be perfect and will not create an addiction free state, but it is another step towards smarter sentencing.

If you or someone you know is facing legal issues as a result of drug charges, it is important to speak with a criminal defense attorney who knows the law. Contact the Ambrose Law Firm, PLLC at 612-547-3199 or email ambroselegal@icloud.com for a free consultation. Taking advantage of these newly enacted laws can truly be the difference between freedom and prison.

Attorney Nathan Downing received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver. While there, he was on the Law Review. Nathan is a native Minnesotan and returned home to continue his legal career. Drug crimes attorney St. Paul MN; Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer; and 5th Degree Possession MN.

[1] A past blog post here looked at possible drug sentencing reforms that may answer those questions.

[2] See https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/?year=2016&type=0&doctype=Chapter&id=160

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