No matter the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you probably never expected to be spending decades in jail. However, because of mandatory minimum sentences, a conviction for possession with intent to distribute landed you in prison. The kind and amount of drugs police reported that you possessed likely determined the length of your sentence beyond the minimum.
You may be surprised to find that more than half of your fellow inmates are also serving time for drug crimes, not necessarily violent crimes. This is because of the mandatory sentencing laws passed in the 1980s when violent crime surged with the introduction of crack on the streets. Maryland is not the only state now taking steps to eliminate mandatory minimums for drug crimes that overpopulate prisons and unfairly target minorities.
Repealing mandatory minimum sentencing
According to proponents of recent changes in the law, mandatory sentences punish the small-time offender with the same severity as the kingpins and others higher in the drug distribution chain. Many believe you and others in your situation may turn your life around if given a second chance. You may be interested in the following information about the recent changes in state laws:
- Prior to changes in the law, a judge had no choice but to sentence you to 10, 25 or 40 years for second, third and fourth convictions for drug dealing.
- There are no longer mandatory sentences for repeat offenders of drug crimes, with the exception of kingpins.
- Convictions for certain weapons crimes still carry a mandatory minimum.
- Within the past five years, about one third of the states in the country have repealed many mandatory minimum sentencing laws.
- If you are already serving a mandatory minimum sentence for drug distribution, you may file a motion to have your case reviewed.
- You may be among the nearly 500 people for whom the courts may consider early release.
While many are rejoicing that the changes will provide opportunities that long prison sentences do not, some prosecutors are preparing their objections. Your case may be one of the many prosecutors are reviewing based on the belief that drug dealers belong behind bars because they pose a threat to society. Some opponents make a connection between drugs and violent crime by pointing out trends that indicate crime declines when laws requiring mandatory minimum sentences are on the books.
This is likely to mean you will have a difficult time trying to win early release based on the repeal of mandatory minimums. Seeking help from an attorney may improve your chances of a more positive outcome.