12.23.2008

Death penalty guidelines for drug cases issued today

Drug cases are problematic because:

1. They're on the rise. According to the Central Political-Legal Commission, last year their number increased by 18%. A total of 50.000 cases were investigated.

2. Drug crimes are among those 68 offences punishable by the death penalty.

So if one wants to adopt uniform standards to impose death sentences one needs somewhere to begin, right? They began from drug crimes. It happened today, at the National Symposium on Adjudication of Drug Cases 全国部分法院审理毒品犯罪案件工作座谈会.

An abstract of the symposium is available online. I've posted it here. The Symposium abstract is a lengthy and quite technical document. Let's see when the death penalty can be used in drug cases.

Relevant Criminal Law provisions: Chapter 7 on drug crimes. More specifically, art. 347.

A person who, under any of the following circumstances, smuggles, traffics in, transports or produces drugs, shall be sentenced to fixed-term imprisonment of fifteen years, life imprisonment or death and concurrently to confiscation of property:
1. to smuggle, traffic in, transport or produce opium of not less than 1,000 grams or heroin or methyl benzedrine of not less than 50 grams or any other drug of large quantity;
2. to be a ringleader of a gang engaged in smuggling, trafficking in, transporting or producing of drugs;
3. to shield with weapons the smuggling, trafficking in, transporting or producing of drugs;
4. violently to resist inspection, detention or arrest with serious circumstances; or
5. to take part in organized international drug activities.
Changes introduced today:

  1. Those who smuggle, traffic in, transport, produce more than 1000 grams heroin or methylbenzedrine or more than 50 grams of any other drug will be sentenced to life imprisonment instead of the death penalty if mitigating circumstances (either statutory or non-statutory) 法定、酌定从宽处罚 情节 exist.
  2. smuggling, trafficking, transporting, producing more than 1000 grams heroin etc + mitigating circumstances + aggravating circumstances. The document seems to imply that a suspended death sentence is to be used

Cases in which the death penalty with a two year reprieve can be seeked:
  1. presence of statutory mitigating circumstances
  2. smuggling, trafficking, transporting, producing more than 1000 grams heroin etc + confessing drug crimes not yet discovered by judicial organs
  3. smuggling, trafficking, transporting or producing more than 1000 grams drugs low in psychoactive components
  4. Those who engage in trafficking to sustain their habit 以贩养吸
  5. First-time offenders and some categories of joint offenders
Death sentences with a two years reprieve are normally commuted in life sentences, provided that no new offences are committed during the probationary period.

Cases in which the death penalty will be seeked:

  1. smuggling, trafficking, transporting, producing slightly less than 1000 grams heroin etc + aggravating circumstances
  2. See art. 347
  3. more than 1000 grams drugs smuggled, trafficked, transported or produced + involvement of underage persons in any of these activities or recidivism or habitual offender or statutory aggravating circumstances.
  4. more than 1000 grams drugs smuggled, trafficked, transported or produced + commission of multiple drug crimes punishable under chapter 7 of the Criminal Law
  5. more than 1000 grams drugs smuggled, trafficked, transported or produced + absence of any statutory or non-statutory mitigating circumstances. [more]