HUNDREDS MAY BE RESENTENCED UNDER ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAW REFORM
By May 31, 110 inmates had been resentenced, 35 of whom were released, under legislation signed in December 2004 by Gov. George E. Pataki reforming the state's harsh mandatory sentences known as the "Rockefeller" drug laws. These laws were originally passed in the early 1970s during the Nelson A. Rockefeller administration.
Under the new law, indeterminate sentences for Class A-I drug offenders serving 15 to 25 years to life have been replaced with determinate sentences from eight to 20 years, and the threshold weight for drug possession has doubled from four to eight ounces for a Class A-I drug felony conviction, and from two to four ounces for a Class A-II drug felony conviction. The new law also has replaced indeterminate sentences for lower-level drug offenses with determinate sentences, generally with lower mandatory minimums.
Of the approximately 14,000 offenders currently incarcerated for a felony drug conviction, 446 are Class A-I drug felons, serving life sentences with minimum terms of 15 years or more. Under the new law, these offenders can immediately apply for resentencing in the court in which they were convicted. Other incarcerated drug offenders (Class A-II and below) who have not finished their minimum sentences could be eligible for an additional merit time reduction. In addition, most drug offenders facing charges now or in the future could be eligible for shorter sentences.
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