The 2017 North Dakota legislative session was certainly busy, with the Republican-controlled Legislature sending hundreds of bills to the desk of Governor Doug Burgum. While some of these laws expanded on freedoms already included in constitutional provisions (such as laws making it easier for adults to carry a concealed firearm on their person), other laws offered other North Dakota residents a different and new type of freedom. Individuals charged with certain types of drug offenses will find that the penalties are not quite as serious as they once were.
Who Benefits Most from These New Drug Laws?
As states across the nation grapple with prison overcrowding and the associated costs, more and more states are looking for ways to divert certain criminals away from the prison system and provide them with opportunities to reform their behavior without the need of incarceration. In the aftermath of the (what some would call the failed) war on drugs, many states (including North Dakota) have found that first-time drug offenders are an appropriate class of criminals to divert away from prisons.
Under the new laws, the first offense for possession of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor as opposed to a class A misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors are only punishable by a maximum of 30 days of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,500. Moreover, a person who is charged with his or her first offense of drug possession (regardless of the type or amount of drug) faces a class A misdemeanor as opposed to a felony under the previous law. These changes to the state’s drug laws do not affect the state’s laws prohibiting drug distribution – these laws remain unchanged. Penalties also remain serious for those who are convicted of possession of illegal drugs two or more times.
The Purpose of the New Laws
These new laws offer a chance at reformation and rehabilitation to those who are first-time users of illegal substances instead of potentially ruining their lives with a felony conviction and periods of incarceration. For a significant number of first-time drug possession offenders, the new laws may offer an appropriate sanction and accountability to encourage the offender to obtain drug treatment before his or her addiction gets out of control and causes additional legal trouble. It is hoped that these laws will not only save the state money and ease prison overcrowding, but will also help reduce recidivism among drug offenders.
Charged with a Drug Offense in North Dakota? Seek Counsel Immediately.
Despite these changes, being charged with any drug offense in North Dakota is a serious matter that ought to be addressed with the assistance of the criminal defense team led by Tatum O’Brien at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss. We can help ensure you obtain the best possible outcome. Contact O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss today, or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.