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Burgum signs bill removing mandatory minimums for repeat drug crimes, marking first approval of session

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signs a bill removing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Photo provided by governor's office.

BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed his first bill of the 2019 session Wednesday afternoon, March 6, approving legislation removing mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug crimes, his office said.

House Bill 1183, championed by Fargo Republican Rep. Tom Kading, passed the Senate in a 44-1 vote a week ago. It deletes minimum sentencing requirements for second and subsequent offenses for manufacturing or delivering controlled substances.

The bill doesn't change the class of convictions, such as a Class B felony, but proponents argued judges needed more leeway in sentencing offenders. Under current law, a second conviction for dealing methamphetamine carries a minimum three-year sentence, which is one mandate the bill would remove.

Drug delivery crimes involving a firearm will still carry a mandatory minimum sentence, said Pat Bohn, the director of parole and probation for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The corrections department said there were 34 people serving a minimum mandatory drug sentence in the state's prison system as of early January.

The bipartisan legislation furthers criminal justice reform efforts the Legislature has undertaken in recent years and reflects what experts say is a national trend at the state and federal levels. The bill will take effect Aug. 1.

A spokesman said Burgum, a Republican, also signed a bill raising the age of criminal culpability from 7 to 10 years old, under which a child is considered "incapable" of committing a crime. Supporters said the move would open avenues for more children to deal with underlying family issues.

Burgum signed 10 bills in total Wednesday, a spokesman said.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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