A break down of the reforms that were signed into law in April of 2009 by Gov. Paterson.

 

Rockefeller Drug Laws. The changes include: eliminating mandatory minimums and returning judicial discretion in most (but not all) drug cases; reforming sentences; expanding drug treatment and alternatives to incarceration; and allowing resentencing of some currently incarcerated people who are serving sentences under the old laws. With these reforms, New York begins its shift away from the Rockefeller Drug Law regime, and moves towards a public health and safety approach to drug policy.

The 2009 reforms include the following:

Restores judicial discretion and eliminates mandatory prison in low-level drug cases

  1. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of first time non-violent Class B, C, D and E felonies. Judges can sentence to probation, treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  2. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of second time non-violent Class C, D, and E felonies. Judges can sentence to probation, treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  3. Prison terms are no longer mandatory for those convicted of second time non-violent Class B felonies who are deemed by a drug treatment counselor as being drug dependent or have abused drugs or alcohol. Judges can sentence to treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, or prison.
  4. Mandatory prison terms are still required for second-time Class B felonies if defendant was convicted of, or had pending, a violent felony in the previous 10 years. In this case there is no judicial discretion.
  5. Mandatory prison sentences remain for those convicted of Class A-I and A-II feloniesthere is no judicial discretion. Penalties for these offenses were reduced in 2004/2005, but remain unduly harsh.

Expands drug courts and other alternatives to incarceration, and reduces penalties

  1. Expands drug treatment, alternatives to incarceration, and re-entry services by investing nearly $71 million into those programs.
  2. Allows the court to conditionally seal records of drug and some non-drug, nonviolent offenses upon a defendant’s successful completion of treatment or other alternative to incarceration programs. Police and prosecutors will continue to have access to these records as needed for criminal investigations.
  3. Reduces the minimum penalty for Class B felonies from 3 ˝ years to 2 years.

Allows retroactive resentencing for approximately 1,500 currently incarcerated people

  1. Allows those convicted of a Class B felony before 2005, now serving an indeterminate sentence with a maximum term of more than 3 years, to petition the court to be re-sentenced under new sentencing provisions. Judges then make a decision on re-sentencing—it is not automatic.
  2. Allows those sentenced under Class B indeterminate sentences to petition the court for re-sentencing for Class C, D or E felonies "which were imposed by the sentencing court at the same time or were included in the same order of commitment" as the Class B felony.
  3. Excludes from resentencing those serving Class B indeterminate sentences if they have a violent felony conviction in the preceding 10 years; are incarcerated for a merit-time ineligible offense; were convicted as a "second violent felony offender" or "persistent violent felony offender"; or previously sold narcotics to a minor.

Drug Policy Alliance | 70 West 36th St., 16th fl. | New York, NY 10018 www.drugpolicy.org | nyc@drugpolicy.org | phone: (212) 613-8020

Creates new, more serious drug crime statutes

  1. Establishes a "kingpin" provision as a Class A-I felony requiring a mandatory term of imprisonment of 15 years to life. Restoring a 15 – life sentence, which was initially eliminated in 2004, is a step in the wrong direction.
  2. Establishes a new mandatory minimum Class B felony provision for adults 21 and over that sell to minors under 17 years of age.

Background on New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws

Using prison to address drug abuse: The Rockefeller Drug Laws, enacted in 1973 under then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, mandated extremely harsh mandatory-minimum prison terms for the possession or sale of relatively small amounts of drugs. Supposedly intended to target major dealers (kingpins), most of the people incarcerated under these laws were convicted of low-level, nonviolent offenses, and many had no prior criminal records. The laws marked an unprecedented shift towards addressing drug abuse through the criminal justice system instead of the medical and public health systems. It was a shift that New Yorkers would soon discover didn’t work and come to regret.

Waste of taxpayer dollars: Approximately 12,000 people remain locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, representing nearly 21% of the prison population. The state spends over $525 million per year to incarcerate people for drug offenses – 66% have previously never been to prison, and 80% have never been convicted of a violent felony. It costs approximately $45,000 to incarcerate a person for one year, while treatment costs average $15,000 per year, and is proven to be 15 times more effective at reducing crime and recidivism.

Extreme racial disparities: The laws have led to extraordinary racial disparities in the state’s criminal justice system. Studies show that rates of addiction, illicit drug use and illicit drug sales are approximately equal between racial groups. But while Black and Latino people make up only 32% of New York State’s population, they comprise nearly 90% of those currently incarcerated for drug felonies. This is one of the highest levels of racial disparities in the nation, and is widely considered a human rights disgrace.

Limited changes in 2004 and 2005: After years of vigorous advocacy, in December 2004 the NY State Legislature passed limited reforms of the laws, including some sentence reductions, increases in merit time, and improvements to parole. These reforms were a small step forward, but did not constitute real reform—for instance, the changes did not restore judicial discretion or provide funds for community-based drug treatment. As then-Republican Senate Leader Joseph Bruno admitted: "This is only a small step, and we need to do more."

Today: Towards a Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy in New York

Real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws sets the stage for the development of a public health and safety approach to drug policy in New York City and State – policies that can successfully reduce the death, disease, crime and suffering associated with drug dependency and abuse. New Yorkers are ready and have already begun outlining the best practices of this new approach: In January of 2009, DPA and The New York Academy of Medicine convened the historic conference, New Directions for New York. Hundreds of stakeholders from the community, from NY City and State government, and the fields of public health, treatment, and criminal justice assembled to explore a coordinated public health and safety approach to drugs. Lessons from that gathering will continue to help shape the future of drug policy in New York

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Report by The Legal Aid Society Drug Law Sentencing : Saving Tax Dollars with Minimal Community Risk

 For more information go to Real Reform

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In 2004 & 2005  watered down reform was passed by the NYS legislature

 

A Guide to Rockefeller Drug Law Reform by Community Alternatives

 

New Sentencing Chart for Drug Offenses Under Rockefeller Drug Law Reform

With the enactment of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, there are numerous changes in the laws regarding sentencing. Below is a new sentencing chart for drug offenses.  Use the following list to directly access information on a specific class felony.

 

Class A-I First Offense Class A-I Prior Non-Violent Class A-I Prior Violent
Class A-II First Offense Class A-II Prior Non-Violent Class A-II Prior Violent
Class B First Offense Class B Sale Near School Class B Prior Violent
  Class B Prior Non-Violent  
Class C First Offense Class C Prior Non-Violent Class C Prior Violent
Class D First Offense Class D Prior Non-Violent Class D Prior Violent
Class E First Offense Class E Prior Non-Violent Class E Prior Violent

 


Class A-I First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 8-20
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-I
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class A-I Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 12-24
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-I
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class A-I Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 15-30
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-I
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class A-II First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 3-10
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/Life1
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-II
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

Class A-II Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 6-14
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/Life1
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-II
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class A-II Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 8-17
  • Post-Release Supervision: 5
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A-II
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class B First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1-9
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/251
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: Yes
  • Attempt: C
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class B Sale Near School

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 2-9
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/251
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: Yes
  • Attempt: C
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

Class B Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 3 1/2-12
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1 1/2-3
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/Life1
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: C
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class B Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 6-15
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1 1/2-3
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: C
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class C First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1-5 1/2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/5
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: Yes
  • Y.O. Permitted: Yes
  • Attempt: D
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class C Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 2-8
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1 1/2-3
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: D
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class C Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 3 1/2-9
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1 1/2-3
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: D
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class D First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1-2 1/2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/5
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: Yes 1 or less
  • Y.O. Permitted: Yes
  • Attempt: E
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class D Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1 1/2-4
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: E
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: Yes2
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class D Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 2 1/2-4 1/2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: E
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class E First Offense

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1-1 1/2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1
  • Probation Permitted: Yes/5
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: Yes 1 or less
  • Y.O. Permitted: Yes
  • Attempt: A misd.
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: Yes
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class E Prior Non-Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 1 1/2-2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A misd.
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: Yes
  • Shock Permitted: Yes3
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

Class E Prior Violent

  • Determinate Sentence Term: 2-2 1/2
  • Post-Release Supervision: 1-2
  • Probation Permitted: No
  • Alternative Definite Sentence Permitted: No
  • Y.O. Permitted: No
  • Attempt: A misd.
  • Parole Supervision Sentence Permitted: No
  • Shock Permitted: No
  • CASAT Sentence Permitted: Yes

 

1Requires recommendation of DA and material assistance in prosecution of drug offense.

2Requires consent of DA.

3Cannot have previously served time in state prison. Cannot be convicted for any offense listed in Correction Law §865(1). Only if within 3 years to conditional release.