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Drug Reform Act Brings Changes To Sentencing Laws [infographic]

The 2016 Drug Reform Act revised drug sentencing laws in Minnesota, which can affect anyone charged with drug crimes. State drug laws were overhauled, and provisions were made to help addicts seek treatment. Addiction is becoming endemic in the United States. A drug lawyer Minneapolis can answer questions about the changes.

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Drug Reform Act Brings Changes_Drug Lawyer Minneapolis

New Drug Sentencing Laws Effective August 1, 2016

Overall, the new laws seek to punish drug dealers and help drug addicts seek treatment, rather than locking everyone up. There are more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States.

Harsh sentences for drug-related crimes help contribute to the high per capita incarceration rate. The so-called “war on drugs” has not reduced the number of drug users but instead made for-profit prisons lots of money.

Minnesota lawmakers initially proposed changes to strict drug laws to decrease the number of prisoners. Lawmakers also recognized the need to punish “kingpin” drug dealers while helping users find treatment options. A seasoned drug lawyer Minneapolis can help nonviolent addicts avoid harsher, drug dealer sentences.

Changes in Severity Levels Means Reduced Prison Time

First degree and second-degree offenses were lowered one severity level, leading to reduced prison sentences for offenders. First and second-degree crimes typically entail sale or possession of a controlled substance.

Aggravated offenses, including threatening or using a firearm, go up one severity level compared to ordinary offenses. An experienced drug lawyer Minneapolis understands the nuances of the new laws and can best represent an accused person.

Nonviolent offenders will now have more lenient sentencing guidelines compared to violent criminals. Lower-level offenders will not automatically be sentenced to lengthy prison terms and may be eligible for conditional or early release.

Threshold Changes for Various Drugs

The new guidelines change the threshold for different drugs, including:

  • Increased threshold for cocaine and meth from 10 to 17 grams for a first-degree crime
  • Decreased threshold for marijuana from 50 to 25 kilograms for a first-degree crime
  • Mandatory minimum prison sentence of 86 months if first-degree crimes involve a firearm
  • Abolishes mandatory minimum sentences for fifth, fourth, or third-degree convictions
  • Allows nonviolent fifth or fourth-degree offenders to be released early

These new guidelines can mean the difference between years in prison for offenders or a second chance on life. People charged with a drug crime should consult a drug lawyer Minneapolis, who can help ensure the best outcome possible.

New Laws Aim to Save Money and Provide Treatment Options

Lawmakers estimate that over 700 beds used by nonviolent offenders will be saved each year, costing around $12 million. The average cost per inmate in Minnesota prisons is over $ 40,000 annually.

While saving money on nonviolent offenders was part of the original intent, lawmakers also wanted to provide treatment options for addicted drug users. The estimated cost of illicit drug use is close to $200 billion annually. Costs are related to crimes, lost wages and productivity, and health care.

A drug lawyer Minneapolis can guide persons charged with a drug crime. Nonviolent, lesser-degree offenders deserve treatment to cope with addiction.

Addiction is Becoming an Epidemic

Treating addiction is key to helping people stay out of jail and improve their lives. Over 20 million Americans over twelve have an addiction, not including tobacco. Smoking is estimated to have the highest rates of addition, over alcohol and illicit drugs.

Over 100 people die every day because of drug overdoses, and this number has steadily risen over the past two decades. In 2011:

  • There were over 5 million emergency room visits because of drug use
  • Almost 10 million people reported driving while under the influence of illegal drugs
  • Nearly 7 million individuals with addiction also had mental illness
  • Over 90% of people with an addiction reported first smoking, drinking, or using drugs before they were 18

Marijuana and Heroin Use On the Rise but Cocaine is Down

It is estimated that seven thousand people try marijuana each day for the first time. Over half of these people are under 18. In 2011, marijuana was the drug with the highest rates of dependence.

While marijuana was on the rise during the 2006-2011 period, cocaine use was down. Cocaine and crack users have a high potential for developing an addiction. Around 800,000 people reported being addicted to cocaine in 2011, and most emergency room visits are related to cocaine use.

Heroin use, like marijuana, is on the rise. Users are at increased risk of infections such as hepatitis C. Almost half of heroin users report using prescription painkillers first. Around 250,000 emergency room visits are attributed to heroin.

Prescription drugs are also being abused, including painkillers in particular. More people overdose on painkillers than with cocaine and heroin combined. Around 33% of painkiller overdoses were related to methadone use.

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