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Phasing out mandatory sentencing for drug crimes in Maryland

Because you already have a felony conviction on your record, your latest arrest may have you concerned. In Maryland, like many states, the justice system has established mandatory sentences for repeat offenders, especially those convicted of drug crimes.

When legislators introduced mandatory sentencing, their plan was to impose penalties so harsh that people like you would not be lured into the world of drugs. Perhaps they underestimated the power of addiction. Public defenders believe that the recent soaring rates of overdose deaths and drug abuse health issues have been a wake-up call for lawmakers.

The law is changing

Defense attorneys believe incarceration is not always the sensible penalty for drug offenders and that alternatives may provide people like you with a more hopeful future. With the current sentencing laws, a hopeful future rarely occurs, and some point to the overcrowded prisons as testimony to that fact. As the law stands now, mandatory sentencing for a felony drug conviction is as follows:

  • With one prior drug conviction, the court would sentence you to 10 years without parole.
  • With two prior drug convictions, the court would sentence you to 25 years without parole.
  • With three prior drug convictions, the court would sentence you to 40 years without parole.

When the new law goes into effect next year, the sentences will still have the potential to be stiff. However, courts will have more leniencies to deal with individual circumstances, with 10, 25 and 40 years being maximum sentences instead of mandatory. In addition, those convicted of felony drug or conspiracy crimes will be eligible for parole.

The main purpose of eliminating mandatory sentencing is to reduce prison crowding, but also to give you a chance to get treatment and therapy in the hope that recovery from addiction will eliminate the need for a life of crime.

Violent offenders and organized crime

The changes in the law will not benefit everyone who is convicted of crimes in Maryland. In fact, for some, the penalties will be even tougher. For example, if the court convicted you of racketeering, you may have to serve your sentence for that crime consecutively, not concurrently, with sentences for any other convictions.

With the new law, sentences increase for those convicted of running drug distribution organizations, second-degree murder and child abuse when it leads to death.

Tough cases and tougher defense

The changes in the law may reduce the penalties for the crime of which you are accused, but if you are still facing the possibility of decades in prison, this news may be of small comfort. You may feel like you are up against impossible odds. However, the evidence against you may be questionable, and the right lawyer will know how to dismantle it.

With so much at stake, you will certainly benefit from having an aggressive advocate. Your attorney will keep you informed of your options and work proactively to bring about the best possible outcome for your case.

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