Rockefeller Law Fixes In Place, Outcomes Unclear


As a new law amending New York State’s strict Rockfeller drug sentences goes into effect today, prosecutors, defense lawyers, prisoners, and their families are still struggling to figure out how it will work, whom it will help, and how soon, says the New York Times. Now, rather than a mandatory sentence of at least 15 years to life, first-time offenders could get as little as eight years and, could be out of prison in under four years on work-release. Prisoners who were sentenced to the longest terms can also ask to be resentenced. That could mean immediate release for some of the 446 “A-1 offenders.”

Yet a resentencing could involve a protracted set of hearings, especially if the prosecutors who won the original convictions oppose granting shorter sentences. Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan district attorney, said his staff was checking case files and reviewing grand jury minutes to decide how to respond to requests for resentencings. His office generally did not charge first-time offenders with the crimes carrying the stiffest sentences, he said, so “we have very few that come under the rubric of overly harsh.”


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