New Jersey Governor Seeks Changes to Drug Sentencing Guidelines

Sentencing guidelines for drug charges — even first offenses or ones involving minor possession — have been criticized as being too harsh. The sentences are described as being disproportionate to the crime committed. Others have criticized guidelines that require jail sentences as failing to do any good or prevent repeat offenders.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently announced that he intends to make large changes to the drug sentencing guidelines in the state. Specifically, he has proposed changes for low-level drug offenses. The change he is pushing for is requiring mandatory treatment in place of a jail sentence.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney — on the opposite end of the political spectrum — shared his agreement with the proposal. “I’m personally happy he’s talking about second chances,” he said.

The plan, while addressing changes in the way of rehabilitation for low-level offenders, takes the opposite stance on offenses considered violent drug offenses. For those, the governor proposed that bail laws required tightening with the goal of keeping individuals accused of drug dealing from being able to post bail while awaiting trial. This second change would not only alter the current law but could mean amending the state Constitution.

While it seems that sentencing guidelines control the outcome of every trial, choosing the right attorney makes all the difference if you have been charge with a crime. A defense attorney will help ensure that your rights are protected and will dedicate their time to minimize penalties or defeat charges entirely, avoiding ever having to deal with the guidelines.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Christie Pushes Rehab Over Jail,” Heather Haddon, Jan. 20, 2012

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