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Politics & Government

Committee OKs bill to give judges more sentencing discretion

An interim Legislative committee has approved a bill draft that would give judges more discretion with mandatory sentences – in certain cases.

The Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration’s proposal says a judge can give a lighter sentence – if it’s determined that the person convicted would not pose a danger to others, has a good chance of rehabilitation, or if the mandatory sentence is deemed overly harsh.

East Central District Judge Lisa McEvers is a member of that commission. She said she appreciates the work Rep. Lawrence Klemin (R-Bismarck) put into drafting the measure.

"I appreciate the Commission considering putting more discretion back with the judicial officers," saiud McEvers.

"It gives the judge back some latitude that had been taken by the Legislature in years past," said Deputy Attorney General Tom Trenbeth, a Commission member. "I'm not so sure that the general public is ready for or educated enough to form an opinion on whether or not mandatory minimum sentences are a good thing. But I think this is a good start to -- for want of a better term -- sneaking up on that concept."

The judge will have to put the reasons for the lighter sentence in writing.

The committee unanimously approved the bill draft for introduction in the 2015 session.

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