Less prison time for some drug offenders in First Step bill

North Carolina State Legislative Building

RALEIGH — Some drug offenders in North Carolina could get lower prison sentences and fines in narrow circumstances in legislation slated to be heard soon by the full Senate.

Senators had scheduled floor debate on the “First Step Act” for Thursday, one day after a committee recommended the bill. But Republicans leaders delayed discussion until later this month. Nearly 15 senators were absent.

Bill supporters say it would benefit people with drug addictions who face long mandatory sentences only because they possessed levels of illegal drugs that met trafficking definitions. A judge would have to determine several factors were met, including the lack of substantial evidence a defendant has ever sold or delivered drugs.

Democratic Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham said this week that groups representing sheriffs and district attorneys support the measure.