House votes unanimously for the First Step Act: allowing North Carolina judges to sentence non-violent drug traffickers below mandatory minimum sentence lengths and fines

Legislation allowing North Carolina judges to sentence non-violent drug traffickers below mandatory minimum sentence lengths and fines in some situations received final General Assembly approval on Wednesday.

 

The House voted unanimously for the First Step Act, one of two criminal justice reform measures that went to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk this week.

The measures had been stalled during this two-year legislative session but found renewed interest following recent demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Starting in December, the First Step Act would give discretion to judges in sentencing if the offender meets specific standards.

A defendant, for example, can’t be a repeat offender or have used violence in commission of the crime, and must admit to a drug addiction problem. The measure also allows trafficking offenders previously sentenced to ask a judge to ease their punishments.

Bill backers have said it will help people with substance-abuse issues avoid needlessly long sentences when treatment is what they need.

The Second Chance Act, finalized Tuesday, would allow more people to get their criminal records cleared of lower-level criminal convictions and dismissed charges.

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Source: Associated Press