Less prison time for some drug offenders in First Step bill

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Some drug offenders in North Carolina could get lower prison sentences and fines in narrow circumstances in legislation advancing again at the General Assembly.

The Senate scheduled floor debate on Thursday on the ``First Step Act.'' Supporters say it would give a break to people with drug addictions who face long mandatory sentences only because they possessed levels of illegal drugs that meet trafficking definitions.

A judge would have to determine several factors were met, including that there's no substantial evidence a defendant has ever sold or delivered drugs. Courts currently have some discretion to reduce sentences when defendants assist law enforcement in an investigation.

The measure has been worked on extensively, and bill supporter Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham said groups representing sheriffs and district attorneys now support it.