The opioid epidemic continues to be a serious problem throughout the country, which may be why a bill was recently introduced in the Arizona House of Representatives that proposed a five-year minimum sentence for individuals convicted of selling opioids for the first time. The bill was approved and is now headed to the Senate.
The five-year mandatory prison term for first-time offenders found guilty of selling opioids is extremely harsh and very reminiscent of the ill-regarded drug policy from decades ago. It’s also a contrast to the treatment-focused approaches recommended by public health and policy leaders.
More specifically, the bill aims to double the penalties for first-time offenders who are convicted of selling, manufacturing or transporting opioids such as heroin, carfentanil or fentanyl. The bill would require a minimum of five years in prison but with a ten-year presumptive sentence. Additionally, repeat offenders would see a minimum sentence of ten years but with a 15-year presumptive sentence.
Those who support the bill argue that the harsher sentences would not only discourage the sale of opioids, but also help get dealers off the street for much longer, thereby making it difficult for people to get access to opioids in the first place. Deterrence theory is problematic when it comes to preventing crime. While critics agree that major drug dealers should receive harsh sentences, they also believe that the bill targets small-scale dealers who are also addicts. Locking these individuals up would do nothing to treat addiction issues, and it would put more burden on the criminal justice system in the form of inmate numbers and costs. Meanwhile, more addicts would step up to sell drugs.
The recently passed House bill aims to increase mandatory sentencing for first-time opioid dealers. Have you been arrested for drug crimes in Phoenix? Contact Nava Law to speak with a criminal defense attorney in Arizona today.