This past week, the New York State Assembly introduced and passed a bill that will dramatically change New York’s drug laws. Existing law has allowed us to take more drug dealers off our streets, yet the Assembly Majority decided to draft a bill designed to focus more on rehabilitating dealers rather than placing them in prison. While I am an advocate of rehabilitation, this should not serve as a replacement for punishment for crimes they have committed.
The current Rockefeller drug laws have been attacked as being too strict when in reality they put behind bars criminals who are dealing drugs, especially those dealers who target our children and want them to go down the same dangerous path that they themselves have chosen to follow.
The new bill returns discretion to judges to tailor the penalties and would allow the court to sentence non-violent drug offenders to probation and drug treatment rather than mandatory prison. This bill will allow drug dealers to get out of a prison sentence if they seek medical treatment for their addiction – something I strongly disagree with. They need to be serving a prison sentence while receiving treatment because prison is a major deterrent for people thinking about drug dealing.
I am also concerned that the amendment to the drug laws forces the burden of proof on our law enforcement offices and district attorneys, making it harder to place these drug dealers behind bars. Currently, criminal procedure law says that drugs found in a car or room are presumed to be the property of everyone in the room, but this bill changes that to shift the burden to prove knowing possession or ownership onto the district attorney.
I voted against amending the Rockefeller drug laws because doing so will eliminate the progress that we have made to take drug dealers off our streets.
If you have any questions or concerns on this bill or any other issue please contact me at either my Johnstown office (518) 762-6486 or my Herkimer office (315) 866-1632.
Assemblyman Butler oversees the 117th Assembly District in New York. His website can be viewed at http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/?ad=117.