Several changes occurred in the legal system over the past six months to a year. Many of these changes affect not just people in North Carolina but Americans nationwide. According to the New York Times, the Senate approved some of the most substantial changes to the criminal justice system in decades toward the end of last year.
While the new legislation still falls short of the original proposals by the Obama administration, it nonetheless addresses many of the concerns raised by both conservatives and liberals over the past decade or more. The First Step Act made the following changes:
- Adjusted the mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges
- Expands job-training opportunities
- Expands early-release programs
One of the main focuses of the legislation was to address the heavy sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Many of those who received life sentences have since been released. They now have the opportunity to reclaim their lives and assimilate into civilian society.
However, leniency does not stretch all across the board. CNN reports that a new North Carolina law could see more drug dealers not just facing longer sentences in the state, but facing murder charges. This may occur if an individual sells a controlled substance that causes someone’s death, such as in the case of an overdose. People nicknamed it “the death by distribution act.” It carries up to a 40-year prison penalty. The main focus of this new law is to deter individuals from participating in the opioid drug trade.
One of the potential problems with this law is that it might deter people from reporting an overdose. This is because it may contradict the Good Samaritan Law. This law aims to protect people who witness or experience a drug overdose when the bystander seeks medical care for the person experiencing an overdose. While supporters of the new law claim it will not affect provisions in the Good Samaritan law, research shows that bystanders are far less likely to become good Samaritans when the risks of criminalization and incarceration increase.