In North Carolina, drug-related crimes are taken very seriously. Due to mandatory sentencing minimums, numerous individuals have ended up enduring harsh punishment for various drug offenses, which means some of them have been refused the help that they actually need. Well, the First Step Act is going to change this.

The First Step Act, also known as House Bill 511, was introduced in 2019, but it did not officially pass the House and Senate until June 2020. This bill does not get rid of mandatory sentencing minimums, but it does allow judges to bypass these minimums if they feel doing so is appropriate. In short, this will help more people qualify for rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Along with giving judges more say when sentencing, the First Step Act requires the offenders who benefit from this law change to comply with certain terms. One condition is that they have to provide information to law enforcement or prosecuting attorneys that results in identifying, arresting or convicting of other offenders. Another is that they must complete a court-ordered substance abuse program — among other things.

The governor signed the First Step Act into law at the beginning of July. Some individuals charged with drug-related crimes in North Carolina may have already benefited from its existence, and many more will in the future. Anyone recently accused of committing a drug-related offense can turn to legal counsel to determine the best way to approach their situations, as well as obtain information as to how the First Step Act may apply to their cases and help them achieve favorable outcomes.