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States reducing penalties for low-level drug crimes

California residents may be shocked to learn that some of Connecticut's drug laws, which are often considered to be some of the harshest in the country, are scheduled to become more lenient in the fall of 2015. Some of the changes may include reducing certain felonies to misdemeanors.

The legislation for the changes was approved on June 29. Certain charges, including possession of a small amount of heroin, crack cocaine and cocaine, will be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors while the mandatory prison sentence for those who are convicted of possession within 1,500 feet of a school will be completely eliminated. It was expected that these changes would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars by not having to provide housing and prison costs for individuals who were considered to be nonviolent or low-level offenders.

Several other states have already signed similar laws that changed the penalties for such crimes. For example, Nebraska and Alabama expected to save more than $300 million each by reducing the penalties for low-level crimes. Utah and California also approved changes that would reduce the possession of small amounts of heroin and cocaine to misdemeanors.

Traditionally, the state of California has had very strict laws when it comes to the possession of illegal drugs, no matter how small the amount. Even though the penalties are reduced, convictions for drug charges can still affect a person's ability to seek employment or housing in the future. Depending on the amount the individual was allegedly in possession of, a criminal law attorney may potentially have the ability to negotiate a lesser sentence that may have little lasting impact on the person's criminal record.

Source: ABC News, "Connecticut Eases Penalties for Most Drug Possession Crimes," Dave Collins, June 30, 2015

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