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ACT NO. 54


Selling or Dispensing Illegal Drugs

This act establishes a 30-year criminal penalty for drug trafficking, which is the possession of large amounts of marijuana, cocaine, crack, methamphetamine or heroin with the intent to sell the drug. The act separates methamphetamine from the stimulant laws into its own statutory section with penalties for possession, dispensing and selling, and trafficking. Trafficking in cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin is added to the list of offenses for which conspiracy may be charged. Any person who sells a regulated drug to any person on property abutting property owned by a public or private elementary, secondary, or vocational school, or dispenses a regulated drug to any person in public view on property abutting property owned by a school would be subject to a ten-year imprisonment penalty enhancement. Any person who dispenses or sells a regulated drug to a person who subsequently dies from using the drug may be imprisoned for two to 20 years. The act also enhances penalties for bringing alcohol or a regulated drug into a correctional facility.

The commissioner of the department of public safety, in consultation with the attorney general’s office, the defender general’s office, the executive director of the state’s attorneys’ association, and the court administrator, is assigned to track the criminal cases brought under the drug trafficking laws, the methamphetamine law, and the conspiracy law with respect to drug trafficking and report to the House and Senate committees on judiciary whether any problems or issues arose with regard to the amount of drugs provided for in these laws. In addition, the commissioner of public safety and the commissioner of finance and management, in consultation with the joint fiscal office, are assigned to study the advisability of establishing six new permanent trooper positions assigned to the Drug Trafficking Unit within the department of public safety and report to the committees on judiciary, the committee on ways and means, and the committee on finance by November 15, 2003.

The act decriminalizes most non-DUI DLS offenses (driving while license suspended) and these DLS offenses will now be handled as civil violations by the judicial bureau. DUI-related DLS offenses and DLS offenses for which the underlying offense is a felony, such as leaving the scene of an accident with death resulting, would remain criminal. Revisions were made to the fines and community service ordered by the court for a DLS. The court administrator, the defender general, the commissioner of motor vehicles, the commissioner of corrections, the executive director of the state’s attorneys’ and sheriffs’ department, and a representative from the Vermont police association are directed to form a study committee to examine and evaluate the issues associated with the suspension of drivers’ licenses and report back to the committees on judiciary in January 15, 2004.

The sunset for the drug court initiative committees was expanded until 2007. The court administrator, in consultation with the executive director of the state’s attorneys’ association and the defender general, is assigned to examine the use of deferred sentences and the advantages and disadvantages of permitting court discretion to order a deferred sentence over the objection of a state’s attorney, especially in drug courts. The court administrator shall report to the committee on judiciary by January 15, 2004.

Effective Date: July 1, 2003