Drug Sentencing Reforms Begin This Summer

On the first day of August each year, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission publishes revised guidelines for felony sentencing. The 2016 changes were discussed in two public hearings and approved by the commission in a 7 to 3 vote. They were presented to the Minnesota legislature in a report dated January 16, 2016. Some of the changes in drug sentencing may be controversial as they are less harsh compared to previous standards.

Barring any complications, the new guidelines will be implemented on August 1, 2016. As Max A. Keller, drug attorney St. Paul, explains, “The new guidelines can give those found guilty of minor drug offenses the second chance they deserve.”

The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission was established in 1980 to review incarceration trends and put a meaningful sentencing structure in place. The commission developed the “sentencing grid” to provide a logical framework for setting consistent prison sentences. It assigns each crime a “severity level” and gives the offender a “criminal history score” based on the number of past offenses. Judges use these factors to determine a drug offender’s sentence.

The annual guidelines review focuses on legislative changes, case law, and other relevant issues. The committee seeks to promote changes that help establish consistent sentencing practices, eliminate sentencing disparity, and ensure that sentencing is not disproportionate to the crime and criminal history.

The 2016 guidelines establish a separate “Drug Offender Grid.” Unlike the previous single grid, it doesn’t lump drug crimes together with other crimes when establishing a sentencing score. As with the old grid, the drug grid score total determines one of two sentencing outcomes. A “presumptive commitment to state prison,” or a “presumptive stayed sentence,” which may mean local jail time, no jail time, probation, or a combination of these. The new drug grid features:

  • Reduced severity levels and sentences for some crimes
  • 10 drug offense categories instead of 4
  • A Meth category with reduced severity levels applicable to children and vulnerable adults

Max A Keller, a drug attorney St. Paul,” is optimistic about the new guidelines. “I am positive that the new drug sentencing guidelines will encourage fair and equitable sentencing,” he explains. Attorney Keller invites anyone with questions or concerns about the modifications to contact Keller Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Any mistake during the early stages of your interaction with the legal system can result in serious, lifelong consequences. Immediate access to a 24-hour lawyer for criminal defense in Minneapolis, MN, can help calm the situation and improve the likelihood of a desirable outcome.
The criminal defense process in Minnesota constitutes several steps, starting with investigations and culminating with appeals. This process can be long and exhausting. An arrest alone can leave you scared, confused, and overwhelmed with emotions. Making logical decisions in this state can be difficult, especially if it is your first time interacting with the criminal justice system.