Lawyers e-Journal

Thursday, Jul. 19, 2012
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Legislative News

Habitual Offender Bill heads to the Senate

Following House approval yesterday, the Senate is today expected to take up long-awaited habitual offender legislation.

The compromise was brokered over eight months by a joint conference committee of the House and Senate, charged with negotiating the differences between the bills passed by both branches in late 2011. The compromise language calls for a reduction in school zones from 1,000 to 300 feet, which the Massachusetts Bar Association supports. It also alters mandatory minimum sentences for certain non-violent drug offenses by raising drug amounts and lowering some of the sentences -- but falls short of the additional mandatory minimum reform being sought by the MBA and many others. Several key legislators have indicated their desire to revisit mandatory minimum sentences in the new legislative session beginning in January including House Judiciary Chairman and Conference Committee Co-Chair Rep. Gene O'Flaherty (D-Chelsea), Rep. David Linsky (D-Natick) and Rep. Brad Hill (R-Ipswich) as well as Gov. Deval L. Patrick.

The habitual offender piece of the bill covers approximately 40 crimes. Felons sentenced for at least three years for one of the qualifying crimes would trigger the three strikes provisions. For felons serving two life sentences or for felons who get a third strike, parole eligibility will be eliminated.

Following the anticipated passage by the Senate today, the bill will head to Patrick's desk. In an appearance on WHBH's Greater Boston, Patrick said "It is not a bad bill, it's just not as good as it could have been."

To see the conference committee's report, click here.


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