Senate Passes Trump-Inspired Bill to Roll Back Cooper-Sponsored Mandatory Minimum Laws

In late ’90s, then-Sen. Roy Cooper sponsored and enacted law to double mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses

Cooper also sponsored and enacted law to drop by 80% the threshold of marijuana possession to trigger trafficking charges, mandatory minimums

Republican legislature acting to overturn Cooper’s disastrous policies

Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Senate today passed two major criminal justice reform bills: the First Step Act and the Second Chance Act. The First Step Act, which passed 48–0, now goes back to the N.C. House of Representatives for a final vote. The Second Chance Act, which passed 48–0, now goes to Gov. Cooper for his signature or veto.

The First Step Act, inspired by legislation of the same name supported and signed into law by President Donald Trump, provides judges with flexibility to ignore mandatory minimum sentences, like the ones enacted by Roy Cooper in the 1990s.

The rationale behind the First Step Act is that nonviolent offenders shouldn’t face harsher penalties than violent offenders, and that rehabilitation — especially for drug users — should be the top priority. Judges should have discretion to decide which consequences are most appropriate for a particular offender, but mandatory minimums tie judges’ hands.

In the late 1990s, then-Sen. Roy Cooper:

· Sponsored legislation, which became law, to double the mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses;

· Cosponsored legislation, which became law, to slash by 80% the volume of marijuana in a person’s possession to trigger drug trafficking charges, which increased mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana;

· Sponsored legislation, which became law, to eliminate the mandatory biennial review of sentences of life imprisonment without parole.

Sen. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), who sponsored the First Step Act, said, “There should be no confusion on this point: My bill, the First Step Act, overturns the mandatory minimum sentences imposed by then-Sen. Roy Cooper. Those complaining today about over-incarceration can draw a straight line back to Roy Cooper for the past two decades of failed policies. I hope now-Gov. Cooper signs into law the Republican-led legislation to overturn the disastrous policies he implemented.”

The Senate also passed the Second Chance Act, which provides a process to expunge certain nonviolent crimes after a period of time.

Sen. Britt, who also sponsored the Second Chance Act, said, “Mistakes made as a teenager shouldn’t condemn a person to lifelong consequences. The goal of the criminal justice system is rehabilitation, which is nearly impossible if an offender can’t get a good job to support a family or qualify for quality housing. The Second Chance Act provides hope for a better life, which benefits the individual, society, and the economy.”