Ending Mandatory Minimums for Pushers in School Zones Sends the Wrong Message

November 23, 2009

Senator Gerald Cardinale, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced today that he would oppose any effort to weaken the drug-free school zones law.

“It is clear that children need more rigorous protection against the predators that turn school yards into open air drug markets,” Cardinale stated. “Weakening the laws that protect students would send the wrong message to the students, educators and the community at large.

This bill would authorize the court to waive or reduce the minimum term of parole ineligibility or place on probation a person convicted of distributing, dispensing, or possessing with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance while on or within a 1,000 feet of school property or a school bus.

In making a determination under the bill, the court is required to consider the following factors:

  • The extent of the person’s prior criminal record and the seriousness of the offenses.
  • Where the offense was committed in relation to the school property, including distance from the school or bus.
  • The reasonable likelihood of exposing children to drug-related activities.
  • Whether school was in session at the time of the offense.
  • Whether children were present at or in the immediate vicinity of where the offense occurred.

“We must remember why we established mandatory minimums in the first place,” Cardinale continued. “Leaving sentencing solely to the discretion of judges often meant that serial offenders were back on the street terrorizing our neighborhoods. Now is not the time to discard this valuable law enforcement tool.”

“The argument that our prisons are over crowded is suspect. The State House Commission last month voted to authorize tearing down our newest prison because it is under utilized.”