Former district judge: Get rid of mandatory sentencing

Feb 11, 2014

A former North Dakota district judge says in most cases, he would do away with minimum mandatory sentencing.

Robert Wefald – who served in the South Central district – told the Commission on Alternatives to Incarceration – it should be the judge who makes the sentencing determination.

"Grant you, most of those come after individuals have committed several crimes, and haven't learned their lessons, apparently," Wefald told the Commission. "But it's still, in my opinion, the job of the judge to take care of the sentencing, and decide what's appropriate in each individual case. And when our hands are tied, all we can say is, 'You're going to prison for 20 years. Have a nice day.'"

Wefald says the exception to that would be in felony DUI cases -- that is, cases where the offender has had multiple drunk driving arrests.

"They need to be taken off the roads and put into forced treatment," said Wefald. "Six months in prison is not enough for treatment. You have to give them 18 months before they can begin to dry out."

Wefald says there are other alternatives – such as drug court and community service – that could be expanded – and those would give certain offenders some way to get back on their feet.