Mandatory minimum sentences waiver passes Maryland senate

Maryland senators are supporting a bill that gives judges more discretion when sentencing certain drug offenders.

In a 40-7 vote, lawmakers approved the measure, which advocates called a safety valve against "one-size-fits-all" sentences for drug offense cases.

The measure would allow judges the discretion of waiving mandatory minimum sentences, explained Michael Hough, R-Carroll County, but does not reduce penalties or entirely do away with the mandatory minimums.

But Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel County, said the legislation sent the wrong message and was more like a "third chance" for repeat drug dealers.

The bill was voted out of the House of Delegates in late March.

Bill sponsor Del. Curtis Anderson, a Baltimore City Democrat, said the legislation also gives judges the discretion to send an offender to drug treatment.