NY's Top Court Clarifies Resentencing in Drug Law

Amendments to the so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws

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    New York's top court has clarified amendments to the so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws, concluding that convicts with one 10-year-old violent felony conviction are still eligible for shortened drug sentences granted to nonviolent offenders, even if they spent those 10 years in prison.

    In the case of Gilberto Sosa, prosecutors argued that prison time is excluded from the calculation of the 10-year "look-back" period for eligibility.

    The divided court says eligibility depends on when an inmate applies for resentencing, not the date of the drug crime. The majority says any other reading would violate the Legislature's intent to give relief to low-level convicts sentenced under the "inordinately harsh" Rockefeller era laws.

    They say Sosa's 1995 weapon possession conviction, followed by 2003 drug convictions in Manhattan, didn't preclude his application to reduce his 10-to-20-year prison sentence.