Idaho House Will Again Consider Dropping Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Feb 27, 2019

An Idaho House Committee has signed off on a bill that loosens minimum mandatory sentences for some drug trafficking offenses after hours of emotional testimony spanning two days.

The bill would give judges leeway to ignore the minimum sentence if an offender doesn’t pose a danger to the community, or if it would “result in manifest injustice.”

Law enforcement groups testified in force. They said removing mandatory minimums would open the floodgates to drug cartels overrunning Idaho.

Kip Paporello with the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) says judges don’t have enough information to give them such sentencing discretion.

“They don’t know what’s going on in the street. They don’t see it, so their perception is different because they think drugs are what they think they are. One judge in one part of the state might have a different view of marijuana or heroin or meth than someone else,” Paporello said.

Boise Police Detective Joe Andrioli, who was also representing the F.O.P. agreed. Rep. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) asked him whether he thought “judges are also incorrect in their assessment of the situation.”

“With all due respect ... that’s absolutely what I’m saying,” Andrioli said.

But Rep. Gary Marshall (R-Idaho Falls) countered that the minimums would still be in place.

“There is nothing in this law that we’re considering that changes a felony to a misdemeanor. There is nothing in this law that changes any minimum sentence,” Marshall says.

The same bill overwhelmingly passed the House floor last year, but it never got a hearing in a Senate committee.

Sen. Todd Lakey (R-Nampa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, didn’t immediately respond to questions about whether he’d put the proposal up for a vote.

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