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S.F. No. 3481 - Controlled Substances (Minnesota Laws 2016, Chapter 160)
 
Author: Senator Ron Latz
 
Prepared By: Kenneth P. Backhus, Senate Counsel (651/296-4396)
 
Date: May 21, 2016



 

Overview

Laws 2016, chapter 160 reflects an agreement on controlled substance law changes made among a wide spectrum of criminal justice practitioners and stakeholders. The act increases the threshold amounts for certain cocaine and methamphetamine crimes, lowers the thresholds for certain marijuana crimes, creates new possession crimes for specified amounts of marijuana plants, creates a new drug kingpin crime, establishes new mandatory minimum prison sentences for certain crimes involving large amounts of controlled substances and/or a firearm or other aggravating factors while eliminating others for lower-level crimes, makes certain mandatory sentences for controlled substance offenses committed with a firearm non-waivable, creates a lower-level penalty crime for 5th degree controlled substance possession cases involving first time offenders who possess trace amounts, expands the conditional release program for non-violent drug offenders, expands the controlled substance stay of adjudication law and makes it mandatory for certain offenders, increases the penalty for repeat drug paraphernalia offenses, and appropriates money to implement the act and for other controlled substance-related purposes, including by establishing and funding a community justice reinvestment account that seeks to capture the savings generated by the act and to use those savings for grants to various programs related to drug offenses and offenders.

Section 1 amends the definition of “subsequent controlled substance conviction” in the controlled substances laws. Limits the term to past violations of 1st or 2nd degree controlled substance crimes (current law includes all felony-level violations of the controlled substances chapter of law). Strikes references to the controlled substances stay of adjudication law (Minnesota Statutes, section 152.18). Maintains the current ten year decay factor.

Section 2 adds a definition of “aggravating factor” to the controlled substances laws. This term is used in sections 3 and 4.

Section 3 amends the 1st degree controlled substance crime.

For the sales crime: increases the threshold for cocaine and methamphetamine from 10 to 17 grams, except for offenses involving firearms or two aggravating factors; and lowers the threshold for marijuana from 50 to 25 kilograms (while striking existing language that provides a lower threshold for marijuana offenses occurring in certain locations).

For the possession crime: increases the threshold for cocaine and methamphetamine from 25 to 50 grams, except for offenses involving firearms or two aggravating factors; lowers the threshold for marijuana from 100 to 50 kilograms; and adds a new crime for possession of 500 or more marijuana plants.

Creates a new aggravated 1st degree crime (i.e., kingpin crime) for specified violations of the 1st degree sales or possession crime involving large amounts of drugs (100 grams or 500 dosage units), if the offense involves a firearm or two aggravating factors. This offense carries a non-waivable mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 86 months.

Offenders who violate what would be considered the new crime, but where there is no firearm involved or the crime does not involve two aggravating factors, would be guilty of a 1st degree controlled substance crime (but not “aggravated 1st degree”) and be subject to a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 65 months. This sentence may be waived in certain circumstances for a possession offense if the offender has not been previously convicted of a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd degree controlled substances crime.

Section 4 amends the 2nd degree controlled substance crime.

For the sales crime: increases the threshold for cocaine and methamphetamine from 3 to 10 grams, except for offenses involving firearms or three aggravating factors; and lowers the threshold for marijuana from 25 to 10 kilograms.

For the possession crime: increases the threshold for cocaine and methamphetamine from 6 to 25 grams; provides for a cocaine and methamphetamine threshold of 10 grams for offenses involving firearms or three aggravating factors; lowers the threshold for marijuana from 50 to 25 kilograms; and adds a new crime for possession of 100 or more marijuana plants.

Section 5 amends the 3rd degree controlled substance crime.

Makes no changes to the sales crime.

Amends the possession crime to increase the threshold for cocaine and methamphetamine from 3 to 10 grams.

Strikes the current mandatory minimum prison sentence for 3rd degree crimes committed by repeat offenders.

Section 6 amends the 4th degree controlled substance crime by striking the current mandatory minimum prison sentence for 4th degree crimes committed by repeat offenders.

Section 7 amends the 5th degree controlled substance crime. Strikes the current mandatory minimum prison sentence for 5th degree crimes committed by repeat offenders. Creates a new gross misdemeanor offense for possession offenses involving trace amounts of drugs. For non-heroin offenses, the amount is set at less than 0.25 grams or one dosage unit if the drug was possessed in dosage units. For heroin offenses, the amount is set at less than 0.05 grams. Of note, this gross misdemeanor trace amount crime applies only to offenders who have not been previously convicted of a violation of the controlled substances chapter of law (Minnesota Statutes, chapter 152).

Section 8 makes a conforming change.

Section 9 makes a violation of the drug paraphernalia law a misdemeanor if the offender has violated it twice before. Under current law, a violation is a petty misdemeanor regardless of how many past violations the offender has.

Section 10 amends the drug offender stay of adjudication law. Expands the law to make 3rd degree controlled substance crime possession offenders eligible. Also, makes the provision mandatory for 5th degree possession offenders who have not previously been convicted of a felony offense or a gross misdemeanor 5th degree controlled substance crime.

Sections 11, 12 and 20 amend the conditional release program for certain non-violent controlled substance offenders to make 4th and 5th degree controlled substance sale offenders eligible and to provide that 4th and 5th degree offenders (both possession and sale) would be eligible sooner than other offenders for early release under the program. Repeals the provision in current law that penalizes offenders who are unsuccessful in the program by adding time to their term of imprisonment.

Section 13 requires the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to keep and report information regarding the impact of statutory changes to the state’s controlled substances laws, including those made in this act. 

Section 14 creates a new account in the special revenue fund known as the community justice reinvestment account. Requires the commissioner of public safety to make grants out of the account for specified purposes related to drug offenders and drug crimes and to report to legislature every two years on these grants. Appropriates money transferred into the account (see section 19) for the grant program.

Section 15 gives exclusive jurisdiction to county attorneys to prosecute the new 5th degree controlled substance gross misdemeanor trace amount crime (see section 7) except in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Sections 16 and 17 amend the mandatory minimum sentence law under section 609.11. Prohibits a court from sentencing a person in disregard of the mandatory minimum for 1st and 2nd degree controlled substance crimes where the offense involves a firearm. Provides that the two new mandatory minimum sentences created in section 3 (except for the kingpin crime that involves two aggravating factors rather than a firearm) do not run consecutively to any other applicable mandatory minimum under section 609.11.

Section 18 specifies changes to the modifications to the sentencing guidelines related to controlled substance offenses that are scheduled to go into effect on August 1. The Sentencing Guidelines Commission had recommended significant substantive changes to the guidelines regarding controlled substance offenses. Of note, under this section, the Commission’s proposal to separate the severity level for 1st degree sales crimes from 1st degree possession crimes is overridden. In addition, the provision sets the severity level (and thus the presumptive sentences) for the new kingpin crime (section 3) and makes other specified changes to listed presumptive sentence and sentence ranges. 

Section 19 requires the commissioner of management and budget to transfer $488,000 in fiscal year 2017 and $461,000 in each fiscal year thereafter into the community justice reinvestment account created in section 14.

Section 20 appropriates specified amounts to the Department of Public Safety for forensic scientists, equipment and supplies, to the Department of Corrections for new chemical dependency/mental health beds and new chemical dependency release planners, and to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission to implement the act.

Section 21 reduces appropriations from the Senate's supplemental budget bill to pay for the appropriations and transfers made in this act. [Of note, this section was later repealed in another bill.]

KPB/tg

 
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