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Opinions Are Mixed About Sentencing Laws for Painkiller Trafficking, Report No. 12-02, January 2012
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Recent increases in prison admissions for opioid trafficking are primarily due to convictions for the prescription painkiller oxycodone. The majority of offenders admitted to prison for painkiller trafficking sold prescription painkillers to a confidential informant or undercover law enforcement officer. Most of these offenders have substance abuse problems and minimal prior criminal involvement.Criminal justice stakeholders, including judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and law enforcement officials, have mixed opinions about the statute that addresses painkiller trafficking. Some are in favor of continuing the statute as written. Others have concerns about the impact of trafficking weight thresholds and minimum mandatory sentences, particularly as they relate to lower potency hydrocodone.If the Legislature wishes to modify the statutory provisions for trafficking in prescription painkillers, options include
  • reclassifying hydrocodone offenses;
  • allowing courts to commit certain addicted offenders to treatment rather than prison;
  • increasing weight thresholds for trafficking in prescription painkillers or changing how weights are calculated; and
  • aligning minimum mandatory sentence lengths with those for most other drugs.

Which Government Program Summaries contain related information?

Justice Administrative Commission
Public Defenders
State Attorneys
Department of Corrections

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