Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms

by Michael J. Redenburg on Aug. 30, 2010

Criminal Criminal  Felony Criminal  White Collar Crime 

Summary: In April 2009, Governor David Paterson signed legislation which effectively transferred discretion from the prosecutor to the judge concerning sentencing in many felony drug cases.

Under the new legislation, prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of first time Class B, C, D and E drug felonies. Further, prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted for second time Class B drug felonies who are deemed by the court as drug dependent or to have abused drugs or alcohol; judges can sentence to treatment or other alternatives to incarceration or prison. The court is allowed to conditionally seal records of drug and some non-drug, non-violent offenses upon a defendant's successful completion of treatment or other alternative programs.

The reform legislation also allows for retroactive resentencing in some situations. It allows those defendants convicted of a Class B drug felony before 2005, now serving an indeterminate sentence with a maximum term of more than 3 years, to petition the court to be resentenced under new sentencing provisions. Additionally, those defendants eligible for resentencing for Class B indeterminate drug sentences may petition the court for resentencing for Class C, D or E felonies which were imposed by the sentencing court at the same time or were for the same order of commitment as the Class B felony. The motion for resentencing is heard before the original sentencing judge unless he or she is no longer on the bench. In such a case, a judge is randomly assigned to hear the motion for resentencing.

The factors to be considered on a defendant's motion for resentencing include the individual's institutional record and any other fact or circumstance relevant to the new sentence. The institutional record includes the individual's disciplinary history and participation in or willingness to participate in treatment or other programming while incarcerated. However, if an individual was willing to participate in a treatment program, but could not participate, that fact cannot be used as a negative factor. 

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