Established in the 1980s and 1990s, mandatory minimum sentencing removes discretionary power from judges. In many cases, this leads to long jail sentences, even for first time and nonviolent offenders. As a result, our prison population boomed, and law enforcement has had to spend millions of dollars every year enforcing strict sentences.

In the past decades since the start of the War on Drugs, debate over mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes has raged. Initially well-received, decades of data has shown that mandatory minimum sentencing does not achieve its stated goal; it does not reduce the prevalence of illicit drug sales across the nation.

How new policies change the game in North Carolina

In recent years, the push back against mandatory minimum sentence laws in North Carolina has gained traction, and reform advocates achieved a major win this past month. At the end of June, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a bill that expanded judicial discretion for drug crimes.

The new policies come in the form of two newly passed bills that do a few different things. Now, North Carolina criminal drug policy:

  1. Grants judges the power to give more lenient sentences that do not meet the mandatory minimum guidelines for certain first-time offenders
  2. Enables some currently incarcerated individuals to appeal for a lighter sentence under the new act
  3. Allows more people to petition to remove certain drug crimes from their criminal history

These bills mark a change in the state’s conversation about drug crimes and can mean a huge difference for you and your loved ones in the criminal justice system. If you believe that these new laws can impact your case, speak with a criminal defense attorney.