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What a reduction to drug sentencing guidelines in Minnesota means

In Minnesota, drug crimes carry hefty consequences, both personally and professionally. Not only could someone end up unemployed -- struggling to find a new job or housing -- but depending on the crime, he or she could also end up behind bars. Going by a recent proposal, though, there could end up being a reduction in the number of people who end up behind bars for certain lower-level drug crimes.

Minnesota Second Chance Coalition recently held a rally calling for shorter sentences for those convicted of certain drug-related crimes. Hundreds of people attended the rally in support of these initiatives.

Reduction to some lower level drug crimes

The coalition supports recent decisions by the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission, who voted late last year to reduce some drug sentences. This includes:

  • First time offenders of first-degree drug possession: Under old guidelines, those convicted on first-degree possession could face up to seven years in jail. The new guidelines will reduce this time to four years.
  • First-degree drug sales: Under the new proposal, the decrease for jail time for first-degree drug sales will also drop down from seven years to five years.

While the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and their supporters are encouraged by the sentence reductions that are already due to go into effect in late summer, they are still pushing for further action. Ideally, the group would like to see small possession crimes become misdemeanors.

Other drug crimes will still carry the same severe consequences

Looking to the future, the changes to existing sentencing guidelines are set to go into effect on August 1. However, these changes are not a guarantee as the Legislature could still decide to intervene.

From a consequences standpoint, it is important to realize that while these changes could lead to a reduction in the number of people in prisons, there are still plenty who will end up facing charges that do not fall under the new guidelines. Such charges include those related to things like prescription fraud, manufacturing and trafficking. Additionally, even with a reduction, those facing any type of drug crime should still never just plead guilty. Rather, the advice is to reach out to an attorney after any type of drug arrest. This attorney will not only protect rights, but will also answer questions and stay with a person throughout the entire process.

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