City Council to Discuss First-Offender Treatment for Misdemeanor Drug Charges
Proposed changes to Laramie Municipal Code would allow the Laramie Municipal Court greater flexibility in dealing with individuals accused of misdemeanor drug possession charges.
The Laramie City council will have the first reading of Original Ordinance No. 1968, which would add ordinances 9.12.253 and 9.12.255 to the Laramie Municipal Code, during their regular meeting Tuesday, May 16. The ordinances would allow certain controlled substance defendants to qualify for first offender treatment and also to make using or being under the influence of controlled substances an offense.
Mayor Andrea Summerville said the move would bring Laramie into line with state statutes regarding first offender treatment for controlled substance defendants in municipal court.
“Right now in the municipal courts, we currently don’t have a first-time offender program for this type of charge, so this ordinance would create that program,” Summerville said. “We are not reinventing the wheel, we are pulling language out of state statute to duplicate what is already available at state level.”
Under the ordinance, those charged with possession of a controlled substance would potentially be eligible for probation, with charges being dismissed if probation is successfully completed.
Summerville said Albany County District Court already has a first offender option for defendants, but the municipal court did not, which left the courts and defendants with limited options.
“You could plead guilty and accept those charges, take it to trial and be found guilty or be acquitted, or the prosecutor’s office could drop the charges,” Summerville said. “There’s no in-between, it’s a full punishment or no punishment.”
Summerville said such charges can have lasting consequences and says the ordinance will allow the municipal court system more flexibility to work through possession offenses on a case-by-case basis.
“We know some of these types of drug offences come with life-long consequences, whether it interrupts someone’s student funding or prevents someone from getting a job down the line,” Summerville said. “So, this will give us more tools in the tool-box for each case to be dealt with on an individual level.”
Summerville said the process to enact these ordinances would take at least six weeks.