Changes to the minimum sentencing laws for drug offenses might occur soon in Maryland. There is a bill before the Maryland House that seeks to allow judges to depart from the mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenders. This could have a considerable impact on the criminal justice system in the state.
Maryland House Bill 121 sets up a safety valve of sorts that would allow judges to move away from the minimum sentencing requirements for drug-related offenses that aren’t violent. This would allow judges the ability to bypass unjust cookie-cutter sentences that are based solely on the number of convictions a person has had. As it stands now, the bill has passed the Senate and is waiting on a vote in the House.
As it stands now, the mandatory minimum sentences make a person who is convicted twice of dealing drugs serve at least 10 years in prison. For a third offense, the person is looking at a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Because of the seriousness of drug dealing as a crime, the minimum sentences haven’t been removed. Instead, the judge can opt to hand down an alternate sentence. Not only will this benefit some defendants, but it will likely save money since these individuals won’t be incarcerated for these lengthy terms. That money could be put into drug treatment programs.
It is important to note that this bill isn’t law yet. As it stands now, mandatory minimum sentences still apply. If you are facing drug charges, it is vital that you understand how the current drug-related laws can affect your case.
Source: The Washington Times, “A ‘safety valve’ for mandatory minimum sentences,” Michael Hough, May. 20, 2015