Proposed bill aims to lower charges for people participating in drug court program

BISMARCK, N.D. - A way to reduce a drug charge could be coming.

A representative proposed a bill that will help incentivize people to finish the drug court program and save the state money.

Representative Shannon Roers Jones says the drug courts have reduced cost for the state and it's a better investment than prison.

House Bill 1164 gives an opportunity for defendants sentenced to the drug court program and successfully finish it to bring down their charges.

Meaning a felony would turn into a misdemeanor and a misdemeanor would have their case dismissed, and the file sealed.

With an increase in opioid problems and a war on drugs in the state and country, law makers are working together to fight the issue head on.

"Working on making it easier for people to get themselves out of the criminal justice system and reset their lives, reform their lives and kind of get reintegrated into society," said Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo.

Jones says the reduction of charges she is proposing will help reduce some of the difficulties of finding a job or housing and help curb people from getting back in trouble with the law.

"A real strong incentive for people to dig in and really participate in drug court because there's that carrot at the end of the process," said Roers Jones.

House Judiciary Committee representatives wondering how this will accommodate everyone.

Roers Jones says there are currently 5 drug courts in the state: Two in Fargo, one in the Bismarck-Mandan area, one in Minot, and one in Grand Forks. She says availability to rural communities will be a challenge.

She says at first they won't be able to accommodate everyone since the drug court program is through an application process. Her hopes? To open up more drug courts across the state further down the line.

The workload that this would present for drug court employees was also brought up by the House Judiciary Committee representatives.

Roers Jones says this is something the drug courts are already dealing with because of the number of applications that come in.