The Maryland Senate passed a bill this March with the intent of seriously reforming the way the state’s criminal justice system handles drug-related offenses. Goals of the bill, called the Justice Reinvestment Act, include reducing the size of the state’s prison population and saving the state money.

Among the many changes that legislators hope to bring about through this bill are provisions that would help drug offenders get treatment instead of prison time.

The bill would also reduce the disparity in sentencing that exists for powder and crack cocaine — the current sentencing rules are blamed for an unfair difference in the length of jail sentences that minorities and Caucasians receive.

Others who would be affected by the bill include people who are currently serving sentences under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. These prisoners could be granted the right to appeal their sentence. Former offenders could also be given an easier path to having possession convictions expunged from their criminal records.

This bill is in line with recent measures passed across the country as states seek to scale back the “war on drugs” and reduce the amount they spend on imprisonment. After clearing the Senate, the bill has moved to the House of Delegates, where it must be debated.

The House version of the bill contains different provisions concerning parole and the removal of certain additional mandatory minimum sentences. The legislation has the support of Governor Larry Hogan, however, so if these differences can be settled, it is likely to become law.

If you or a loved one has been arrested on drug charges in the Charles County or St. Mary’s County areas, contact the experienced La Plata criminal defense lawyers at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A.