Crack VS Powder

By: Brittany Smith

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group that advocates for criminal justice reform is urging states to remove disparities between how people are sentenced for crack and powder cocaine possession.

Last year, President Barack Obama signed legislation that reduced the federal sentencing disparity between the two types of cocaine from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. Before Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, someone caught with 5 grams of crack cocaine had received the same sentence as someone caught with 500 grams of powder cocaine.

Thirteen states have sentencing laws that treat the drugs differently. Only two — Missouri at 75-to-1 and New Hampshire at 28-to-1 — have ratios higher than the U.S. government’s.

The Washington-based Sentencing Project on Thursday urged states to get rid of the disparities, citing fairness and potential savings in prison budgets.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

Michigan Attempts to Outlaw Dueling and Forced Marriage

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Dueling has become less common over the past couple centuries. Likewise, the concern about prizefights.

Both those activities, along with taking a women against her will and forcing her to marry, would no longer be specifically outlawed in Michigan under measures a legislative committee approved Tuesday and sent to the full Senate. The bills will go to the House for consideration once the Senate votes.

“There may have been a time in our history that there was a need for these particular statutes, but I think that time has passed,” said Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse.

The state has no need to keep such laws — dating back to Michigan’s 1931 penal code — on the books because it already is a crime to kidnap, kill or hurt someone, Morse said.

After hearing brief testimony, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bills 5-0.

Republican Sen. Bruce Patterson of Wayne County’s Canton Township jokingly asked if it was wise to lift the specific ban on dueling, given the animosity inside the Capitol at present over resolving a $2.8 billion budget deficit. Much of state government is running on a one-month budget because of the standstill.

Morse replied in jest that if lawmakers had pistol duels, the state could “reserve Spartan Stadium and you could sell some tickets.”

The bid to scrub the books of laws that no longer apply comes up from time to time. Legislators ask the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan if the state has obsolete crimes or crimes covered by other laws. Prosecutors submit a list, and lawmakers occasionally get around to their suggestions.

Other felonies that have been considered for deletion include teaching polygamy, promising to sell grain at a fictitious price and making a false protest on a boat.

Though lawmakers have been in session a lot lately voting on budget bills, legislative leaders are responsible for budget talks — freeing up rank-and-file legislators to work on other issues.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.