The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission voted down a proposal Friday that would have changed how new drug sentences are determined.
In August, new landmark drug laws went into effect, with the intent to lower the sentences of people whose crimes were motivated by addiction — not drug dealing. The laws also attempted to address the racial disparity and overcrowded prisons caused by low-level drug penalties recognized as some of the harshest in the United States.
The commission proposed a modification to the new law that would recalculate the criminal history scores of all who fall under the new guidelines, not just those convicted after last August. Criminal histories play a key role in the length and severity of a prison sentence.
The proposal failed on a 6-5 vote. More than 100 people filled a Capitol hearing room last week to give testimony on the proposal to the commission members. Most were for it, but police and prosecutors, including the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, were opposed.
The proposal would have affected a person’s criminal history score if they had been previously convicted of a drug crime and also convicted of a new crime. If a person previously committed a crime that is now treated less harshly than it was under previous guidelines, when calculating the score, a defense attorney could argue that it should be lowered because of the new guidelines.