Just recently, the Arizona Senate brought some much needed reform to the sentencing of simple drug possession cases. The Senate passed a bill where some Defendants who have been convicted of Possession or Use of Marijuana, Dangerous Drugs, or Narcotic Drugs, are eligible to receive a reduction in the amount of days required to be served in prison. Originally, a Defendant only received an early release credit of one day for every 6 days of their required sentence. Now, under this new bill, SB 1310, that same Defendant may be eligible to receive early release credit of three days for every seven days served. However, that credit is not absolute and there are some conditions.
The first condition is that the this new bill only applies to simple possession, it does not apply to any type of drug sale, manufacturing, or transporting. Second, the Defendant must complete a drug treatment program while in prison. Third, the Defendant cannot have previously been convicted of a violent or aggravated felony as defined in a separate statute. Lastly, the Court can order at sentencing if they wish that the Defendant not receive the benefit of this statute, or if the Defendant is not complying while inside the Department of Corrections, that can also forfeit the early release credits.
The changes should go into effect at the end of August 2019, and should apply to those serving prison sentences for drug possession on that date, and new cases going forward after that date. These provisions are especially important to those Defendants charged in Maricopa County Early Disposition Courts (EDC) and (RCC). If you think that you may have a case that could benefit from this new sentencing provision, please contact us to discuss your options. When handling drug possession cases, there are other factors to take into account as well as trying to take advantage of this more lenient sentencing statute that should be assessed prior to taking any plea agreement.