Proposed Amendments to the Rockefeller Drug Laws

Yesterday, the Assembly passed A.6085, which reforms the Rockefeller Drug Laws in several key respects.  The text of the bill can be quickly read in 15-20 minutes and I encourage all attorneys in criminal practice to do so.  Although the bill is reported as giving additional discretion to sentencing judges, it does much more. 

Among the key provisions that have been widely reported:

  • establishment of a drug court in each county. 
  • defendants can be ordered to undergo an alcohol or substance abuse assessment.
  • first and second offenders convicted of Class B, C, D, or E felonies can be sentenced to local jail, probation, or a split sentence.  The maximums have not changed, only the ability of judges to award these non-prison sentences at the low range.  These alternative-to-prison sentences do not apply to certain offenses and offenders with violent felonies in their histories.
  • offenders convicted of Class B, C, D, or E controlled substance crimes can be sentenced to a boot-camp style "Shock Incarceration Program."
  • courts' authority to dismiss a case, in the interest of justice, upon the defendant's successful completion of a diversion program, is crystallized.

There are additional provisions that have not been getting as much press:

  • alteration of the presumptions in Penal Law § 220.25 for possession in a car or room.  The presumptions will become permissible inferences instead.
  • the proposed legislation creates three new crimes, including Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance to a Minor (a Class B felony), Trafficking Through a Controlled Substance Organization (a Class A felony), and Criminal Possession of a Weapon While Selling or Attempting to Sell a Controlled Substance" (a Class C felony).  Prison time is mandatory for all three of these crimes. 
  • courts can sentence offenders directly to the DOCS Willard Drug Treatment Program.
  • the law extends the eligibility of offenders to enter the DOCS CASAT program.
  • weight threshold limits for Class A-I and A-II offenses, which were not changed in 2004, are raised.
  • DOCS must establish reentry programs for prisoners.
  • any convicted person, regardless of sentence (probation, jail, prison, etc.), who has a documented history of substance abuse, must receive at least one year of substance abuse treatment.
  • certain convicted drug offenders — those who were convicted of pre-2005 indeterminate Class B felonies — can apply for resentencing under the determinate sentencing regime that was enacted in early 2005.
  • judges can seal drug convictions, including felonies (one) and misdemeanors (three), provided the defendant has remained crime-free or has completed a treatment program.
  • parole eligibility for Conspiracy in the Second Degree (a Class B felony) will become a determinate sentencing offense.


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