Monday, July 25, 2011

All Four Departments Now Agree on the Ten Year "Look Back" Calculation for Resentencing

In People v. Carter, 2011 NY Slip Op 05821, the Third Department joined the three other Departments in their determination regarding the ten year “look back” calculation for resentencing applications.  The Court ruled that when determining whether the defendant has a prior felony that would be an exclusion offense as to preclude a motion for resentencing, the “look back” period is measured from when the defendant filed the motion for resentencing.  All four Departments have now soundly rejected the argument from prosecutors across New York State that the “look back” period begins at the time of the conviction for which the defendant seeks resentencing.  As discussed in this blog on March 10, 2011, the three previous cases were People v. Hill, 82 A.D.3d 77 (4th Dept. 2011), People v. Williams, 82 Ad3d 796 (2nd Dept. 2011) and People v. Sosa, 81 AD3d 464 (1st Dept. 2011)

The Court of Appeals granted cert in People v. Sosa, the first of these cases to be decided.  The case is expected to be heard some time this fall.  In light of the unanimity of all four Departments, it is unlikely that the Court of Appeals will chart a contrary course. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Not So Happy 40th Anniversary of the "War on Drugs"

Recently, the New York Times published “Drug Bust”, an article written by Charles M. Blow discussing the 40th anniversary of President Nixon’s declaration of war on drugs.  When this war began four decades ago, drug abuse was indeed a huge problem in the United States.  The fact that drug abuse continues to be such a huge problem is a clear indication of the failure of this policy.  While Nixon correctly identified a worthy cause, the strategy used to address this problem was all wrong.  Instead of attacking the problem at the source, by providing treatment to those with substance abuse problems, this misguided approach, “turn[ed] people who should have been patients into prisoners.” Blow also points out that this “overwhelming thirst for punishment” has hit African Americans particularly and disproportionately hard. 

Although the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared the war on drugs to be a failure, the battle rages on.  Over the past 40 years the number of drug related arrests has continued to increase.  Spending for national drug control has also continued to increase, totaling over 25 billion taxpayer dollars for this year.  It’s time to funnel our state and national resources into solutions that can actually work.  Proper treatment as an alternative to prison has proven to reduce crime, and also save money.  We must continue to push for more vibrant implementation of judicial diversion provided for in CPL § 216.  Treatment alternatives hold out the best hope for public safety and public health.