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Reforms to NY Drug laws Expected

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The New York State Assembly is expected to pass a bill this week that will reform the Rockefeller-era drug laws. As WNYC's Elaine Rivera reports, it would be the first major drug law reform in New York in decades.

REPORTER: Advocates are lauding the assembly bill that would overhaul the state's drug laws, named after former Governor Nelson Rockefeller who introduced them in the 1970's when drug trafficking was skyrocketing in the city.

The bill would give more sentencing discretion to judges, including drug treatment instead of prison. Under the current law, judges must administer long prison sentences to anyone convicted of selling a felony amount of drugs.

Queens Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, one of the authors of the bill, says mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly targeted first time non-violent drug offenders.

AUBRY: Judges will have a range of options that they can employ based on the facts of the case as opposed to the weight of the drug.

REPORTER: But law enforcement officials say allowing more judicial discretion could put the wrong people back on the street. For WNYC, I'm Elaine Rivera.

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