Dealer Giddy About Rockefeller Drug Law Changes

At least one drug dealer is giddy about Gov. David Paterson's decision to repeal the harsh Rockefeller drug laws that have been on the books since the mid 1970s, according to an audio recording obtained by the New York Post.

"They just gave me the free for all," a drug dealer in prison upstate can be heard boasting on the tape. "You know what that means? I'm burnin' the streets when I go home."

The conversation was taped on March 29 and made public today by the District Attorney's Association, a vocal opponent of the Rockefeller drug law reforms.

Under the new reforms, judges will be given the flexibility to sentence non-violent offenders to treatment rather than hard time. The changes also eliminate the harsh minimum drug sentences for first time offenders. The drug dealer in the audio tape seemed to think this was going to help out.

"[Dealers] can say that they have a habit... And they got to prove you make over $50,000 a year, and they said that's hard to prove with no financial records," the man gleefully boasts on the tape.

The District Attorney's Association's major contention with the reforms is a lesser publicized provision that gives judges discretion on whether to seal the records of defendants who successfully completed a drug treatment program.

Under the provision, convictions for lesser drug crimes and other crimes associated with drug use like burglary, larceny and forgery could be sealed if the defendant completes a drug treatment program. If sealed, those convictions won't appear on record if an employer is doing a background check on a possible employee.

"If you look at the list of jobs and licenses that you are going to be able to get without having your criminal drug activity revealed to a potential employer is remarkable," said Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, who heads the state's district attorneys' association.

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