The Law: Retroactive Justice

When legislators add a new item to the criminal code or increase penalties already on the books, justice requires that the new rules not apply to acts committed before the change. But what if a new law decreases possible punishments? Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie faced that question last August when the legislature overhauled the state's drug laws. Under the tough old rules, for example, selling as little as 2.5 gm. of marijuana brought a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years; now judges may impose terms as short as six months or even suspend...

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