Minnesota’s New Drug Sentencing Laws Effective As Of August 1, 2016

After a long battle in the legislature, many sentencing guidelines are being reduced for first and second degree possession offenses, while reserving the more severe punishment for high-level drug dealers, or violent offenders. The following is a brief overview of the changes that took effect on August 1st. To view a complete overview of the proposed changes visit the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission website here.

  1. The Severity Level of Most High-Level Drug Offenses Were Lowered

First and second degree drug offenses were lowered by one severity level. This is significant because it reduces the presumptive prison sentence for those offenders. While ordinary first and secondary (sale or possession) drug offense severity levels were lowered, the Commission did create Aggravated Offenses. Aggravated offenses are calculated one severity level higher than their ordinary counterparts. The table below illustrates the new severity levels for each drug offense.

Minnesota Drug Offense Severity Level Table (Pages 11-12)

  1. Drug Offenses Now Calculated on a Separate Drug Offender Grid

The second significant change is that the sentencing guidelines drug offenses are now calculated on a separate grid. Prior to August 1, 2016 felony drug offenses were calculated on the “standard” sentencing guidelines grid, leaving only sex offense on a separate grid. Now offenses are arranged on the “Drug Offender Grid” into nine levels of severity, ranging from high (Severity Level D9) to low (Severity Level D1). To calculate your presumptive sentence you would calculate your prior criminal history score (0-6+) and meet that with the severity level of your convicted offense. If you fall presumptive sentence is within a shaded gray box that means you fall into a presumptive “stayed” sentence and will most likely put on probation rather than go to prison.

Minnesota Drug Offender Grid

  1. Mandatory Minimum Sentences Were Reformed

Mandatory minimum sentences were eliminated based on prior 3rd, 4th, and 5th degree drug convictions. Only prior 1st and 2nd degree convictions within 10 years would trigger a mandatory minimum for a subsequent conviction of a 1st and 2nd degree drug offense. Meaning if you are convicted of a 1st-degree drug offense AND you have a prior 1st or 2nd degree drug conviction then the mandatory minimum is 48 months. For a 2nd degree conviction with a prior 1st or 2nd degree conviction the mandatory minimum is 36 months.

Along with the changes to the drug offense sentencing guidelines there were also important changes to the to the drug laws themselves.  Each drug offense level requires a threshold amount or quantity of each type of drug to support possession or sale charges. Many of the threshold amounts were raised in an attempt to target high-level offenders and to keep low-level offenders from facing severe prison sentences. To find out the new threshold requirements for each drug offense visit the Minnesota Sentencing Guideline’s website at http://mn.gov/msgc-stat/documents/Training%20Materials/2016%20Drug%20Materials/2016%20Drug%20Thresholds.pdf

Even with these recent reforms, drug offenses still carry harsh consequences. If you face drug charges at any degree you need an experienced attorney to help you achieve an outcome that is favorable to you. The attorneys at Sieben & Cotter have proven results with these types of cases.

Criminal Jury Trial Victories

Not Guilty Jury Verdict — Dakota County — 2nd and 5th Degree Controlled Substance Sale
Not Guilty Jury Verdict — Dakota County — Third Degree Controlled Substance
Not Guilty Jury Verdict — Dakota County — Third Degree Drug Sale
Not Guilty Court Verdict — Dakota County — Controlled Substance Possession
Not Guilty Court Verdict — Dakota County — Felon in Possession of Firearm, Drug Possession

Complete Dismissal of Criminal Charges

Charges Dismissed Before Trial — Dunn County, Wisconsin — Felony Drug Possession and OWI
Charges Dismissed Before Trial — Hennepin County — Possession of Marijuana
Charges Dismissed Before Trial — Hennepin County — 5th Controlled Substance Possession
Charges Dismissed Before Trial — Hennepin County — 5th Degree Controlled Substance Possession
Charges Dismissed before trial — Scott County — 5th Degree Controlled Substance Crime Charges
Dismissed before trial — Anoka County — 5th Degree Controlled Substance Crime
Charges Dismissed before trial — Aitkin County — 5th Degree Controlled Substance Crime
Charges Dismissed before trial — Crow Wing County — 5th Degree Controlled Substance Crime
Charges Dismissed before trial — Yellow Medicine County — Controlled Substance Crime Charges
Dismissed before trial — Dakota County — Controlled Substance Crime

Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 or send a request for more information and to arrange your free consultation.