Drug sentencing reform

Recently, the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission (MSGC) released preliminary changes to the sentencing grid. Among the changes were closer alignment of the guidelines with actual sentencing trends, which included judges sentencing drug offenders to significantly less time behind bars than what the guidelines recommended. Initially, the proposed changes were met with extreme resistance on the part of the Minnesota County Attorney’s Association, as well as various law enforcement groups. However, after several months of negotiation with the stakeholders, a compromise was reached. The compromise includes changes to drug threshold amounts to distinguish between those who are in need of treatment and actual drug dealers. It also eliminates mandatory minimums based on 3rd, 4th, and 5th degree drug convictions. The compromise also includes harsher penalties for high-level drug dealers with the creation of an aggravated first degree controlled substance crime. Supporters of this compromise say the changes will reform how we treat drug crimes. Users will serve less time in prison while receiving more treatment for their addictions, and drug kingpins will face harsher penalties. (S.F. 3481)

Senate DFL Media