New GA Bill Continues Mandatory Reform Momentum

Post Date: February 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – FAMM President Julie Stewart today hailed the introduction of new bipartisan legislation in Georgia to reform the state’s drug mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The bill, HB 349, would add a “safety valve” so that judges could impose a shorter sentence in cases involving low-level, nonviolent offenders.

“More and more states recognize that one-size sentencing laws do not fit all offenders. I am thrilled that Governor Nathan Deal and a bipartisan group of Georgia lawmakers are committed to improving public safety by reforming mandatory minimum laws and focusing on ways to reduce recidivism,” said Stewart.

HB 349, among other things, would expand the ability of judges to sentence below the mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Under current law, only the district attorney can move the sentencing court to reduce a mandatory minimum. HB 349, which borrows from the federal drug safety valve that FAMM helped draft in 1994, would authorize courts to reduce a mandatory minimum if the court finds that: (1) the defendant was not a leader/organizer of the offense; (2) the defendant did not use a weapon; (3) the defendant’s conduct did not result in death or substantial bodily injury; (4) the defendant does not have a prior felony conviction; and (5) the interests of justice would not be served by forcing the defendant to serve the mandatory minimum prison sentence.

“Governor Deal and the sponsors of HB 349 deserve great credit for putting this bill forward. Although we think the bill could be improved in some ways and will offer suggestions for doing so, we hope the full legislature will approve the safety valve as quickly as possible,” Stewart concluded.

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Click here http://www.ajc.com/news/news/a-question-of-justice/nWPSB/ to view a video by the AJC on Georgia’s state mandatory minimum laws.