Drug court sentencing gets reform

Posted on Nov 03 2017


Sentencing guidelines for the CNMI Drug Court is getting a second look after the Senate passed a House bill reforming the guidelines in the CNMI.

House Speaker Raphael Demapan’s (R-Saipan) House Bill 20-12 proposes to revise sanctions against those who manufacture, deliver, or possess controlled substances.

H.B. 20-12 would amend the Commonwealth Controlled Substances Act.

The bill takes a dim view of mandatory minimum penalties, saying they are “frequently unfair or irrational because the judge is unable to consider the pertinent facts and circumstances of the case before imposing a criminal penalty.”

It also incorporates evidence-based programs and services, like treatment and supervision.

“[Amendments] are necessary to cure the traces of injustice resulting from strict imposition of mandatory minimum sentencing laws as applied to nonviolent offenders convicted of a drug-related offense,” the bill states.

According to H.B. 20-12, the punishment for those proven to be guilty with the intent to manufacture, deliver, or distribute controlled substances would depend on the evidence gathered against him or her.

A major factor would be how much of the controlled substance one possesses. If an individual is caught with controlled substances weighing a total of less than 5 grams, they would be sentenced to a prison term of not more than 10 years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. A second offense would bag the offender a prison sentence of not more than 25 years and a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.

The bill specifies that mere possession would also make one an offender.

Possessing controlled substances would land you in prison as well for not more than five years and a fine of not more than $2,000 or both. A section of the bill provides that marijuana is an exemption to this.

The same section of the bill poses stricter consequences for being caught with methamphetamine hydrochloride or “ice,” cocaine, or heroin as well as being found guilty of discharging a firearm.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and now heads to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres for enactment.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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