26 June 2023- Today, U.S. Representatives David Trone (D-MD) and Nancy Mace (R-SC) reintroduced the Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act to eliminate the presumption of pretrial detention for most federal drug charges by allowing courts to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
In most cases, a judge assesses whether the accused is a flight risk or a potential danger to the community, but for some crimes there is a presumption that the accused needs to be detained while awaiting trial. For all drug offenses with a maximum punishment of 10 years or more – even those that are nonviolent – a judge is required to detain defendants under a mandatory “presumption” of flight risk or danger. This presumption is an ineffective way of combating the drug epidemic and treats nonviolent drug offenses like terrorism, child sex crimes, and other serious violent crimes.
“We have to reevaluate how we treat nonviolent drug charges if we hope to effectively combat the opioid epidemic,” said Congressman Trone, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Second Chance Task Force. “It’s important for judges to look at these cases individually rather than indiscriminately punishing those who may be fighting substance use disorder and subjecting them to the same treatment of violent criminals. The Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act makes it clear that these nonviolent offenders deserve to be judged fairly and sets them up for a real second chance.”
“The Smarter Pretrial Detention for Drug Charges Act recognizes the importance of fair and just pretrial procedures, ensuring that individuals are not unfairly burdened before they are proven guilty,” said Congresswoman Mace. “By adopting this legislation, we can promote a more balanced and effective approach to addressing drug offenses, focusing on rehabilitation and reducing unnecessary pretrial detention.“
This legislation has been endorsed by Black and Jewish Unity Coalition DreamOrg, Due Process Institute, International Community Justice Association, Prison Fellowship, R Street Institute, and Successful Reentry.
Co-sponsors on the bill include: Reps. Mace (R-SC), Mfume (D-MD), Scanlon (D-PA), Holmes Norton (D-DC).
For bill text, click here.
For bill summary, click here.