Chief Justice Worries Issue 1 Will Take Away Drug Court Option, Overload Court System

Sep 4, 2018
Originally published on September 4, 2018 9:05 pm

The top justice of the state’s highest court is speaking out on a constitutional amendment on the fall ballot, which would require low-level drug offenders be charged with misdemeanors, not felonies. Supporters say money could then go to treatment instead of crowded prisons. But Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor has concerns about Issue 1.

O’Connor said she’s worried Issue 1 would take away drug court as an incentive judges can offer drug offenders, the only way she says the courts can ensure they get treatment.

And it would allow for reduced sentences for inmates not convicted of murder, rape or child molestation – terms O’Connor said aren’t clearly defined. “I think what’s been created here is some, via imprecise language and some unintended consequences, grave concerns for the implementation of this, should it pass, and a tremendous burden on the courts.”

O’Connor also said the amendment wouldn’t have any effect on the federal system, where there is no opportunity to divert offenders to drug court.

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