House Panel Approves Loosening Idaho's Mandatory Sentencing Laws

Mar 7, 2018

After hours of testimony and a split vote, Idaho House lawmakers will consider a bill giving judges more discretion in how to sentence alleged drug traffickers.


The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill 11 to 6 Wednesday evening.


Right now, under Idaho law, someone can be charged with drug trafficking if they have about an ounce of cocaine or meth, more than a pound of marijuana, or two grams of heroin.


The proposed bill wouldn’t completely dump mandatory minimum sentences for those crimes. But Representative Christy Perry (R-Nampa), who cosponsors the measure, says it would allow judges to hand down a lighter sentence, if they feel it would be an injustice to lock someone up for several years.


“All we’re asking, right, is for that judge to take that into consideration if he thinks it’s necessary. He may not," said Perry. "We’re not taking away sentencing. We’re not doing anything like that, but there are people worth saving.”


Over two days at the Capitol, family members of those convicted for trafficking gave tearful testimony, claiming their loved ones would have avoided ruin, if judges had the discretion to levy shorter sentences


Law enforcement groups, though, argued against relaxing the law, warning that more drugs would flood into Idaho.


“I don’t know that we’re ever going to win this war. I’m not sure we are, but I can tell you this: if we pass this we’re not going to win the war,” said state Representative Patrick McDonald (R-Boise), a former state trooper.


The House Judiciary Committee now sends the bill to the full chamber.


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