House Bill 2036 (HB2036) is legislation that attempts to address the opiate crisis in the state of Arizona. The bill calls for a graduated series of mandatory minimum sentences for people that possess a narcotic drug in an amount in excess of 1 gram or otherwise determined to be an amount for sale that contains any amount of Fentanyl, Heroin, Carfentanil or a Fentanyl Mimetic.
For a first-time offender, a person convicted of such an offense would be sentenced to a 10-year presumptive without any possibility for early release. The sentence could be lowered to 5 years or raised as high as 15 years depending on mitigating or aggravating circumstances.
For those that have a prior conviction for any narcotic containing any amount of Fentanyl, Heroin, Carfentanil or a Fentanyl Mimetic, the presumptive sentence jumps to 15 years with a minimum of 10 years and maximum of 20 years.
All of these sentences would be “flat-time” sentences excluded from the earned release credit system that causes a person to have to serve 85.71% of their sentence in prison.
HB2036 was introduced by Representatives Steve Pierce, Noel Campbell, and Senator Karen Fann. All three legislators are from Legislative District 1, Yavapai County. The bill was reportedly urged at the direction of Yavapai County Attorney Shelia Polk.
Yavapai County Attorney Polk has been a stringent foe to criminal justice reforms in the State. Polk, along with former County Attorney Bill Montgomery, now an associate justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, worked in tandem to impede or stop nearly all criminal justice and sentencing reform measures in the Arizona House and Senate over the last decade.
Opponents of the bill including the American Friends Service Committee-Arizona, American Civil Liberties Union-Arizona, and other criminal justice reform organizations, citing the mandatory minimum sentences and low threshold amount as the primary reasons that they oppose the bill.
On January 22, 2020, HB2036 was heard in the House Judiciary Committee. The committee voted along party lines in a 6 to 4 vote to advance the legislation. House Judiciary Committee Vice Chairman Representative Walt Blackman-R (Snowflake) made several remarks about his concerns about the bill, but then cast the deciding vote to advance the bill out of committee. Representative Blackman’s “yes” vote over his own stated objections shocked and angered criminal justice reform advocates that had seen Rep. Blackman as a strong ally on reform legislation. An immediate outcry from many sectors of the criminal justice reform movement was directed at Rep. Blackman.
On January 28, 2020, the bill’s sponsor placed the bill in a “hold” status. Based on reports, this came after Rep. Blackman requested the bill be held by the sponsor Rep. Steve Pierce.
Info World Arizona will update this article with any new information about HB2036 as it becomes available.