Essentially, it looks like a lot of cases languishing without any resolution in sight. That’s untenable, Choi said, as defendants have a constitutional right to a speedy trial. As a solution, the Ramsey County attorney’s office staff started informally opting not to charge some lower-level offenses.
The practice became formalized last month. Under a temporary policy — set to end when the pandemic does — fifth-degree drug possession won’t be charged. While there will be room for exceptions, prosecutors won’t charge such offenses and will strongly consider dismissing older fifth-degree possession cases that have been idle in the system for months.
The policy will allow the court system to better handle the mounting backlog of cases created by the pandemic, Choi said, and strategically targets a statute that he says too harshly penalizes addiction and is overripe for review.