New probation rules figured prominently in whether a man with a 30-year history of drug offenses in Douglas County went to prison.
John Daniel Christy, 52, was sentenced to 12-30 months in prison on Tuesday or possession of 3 grams of methamphetamine.
Prosecutor Matthew Johnson argued the change in the law that reduces sanctions that can be imposed for probation violations has essentially tied judges’ hands.
“The tools you would have that would have any value to Mr. Christy have been taken away from you,” Johnson argued, seeking a prison sentence. “The most you can do if he violates is put him in jail for 30 days, and after that a bit longer. Then he will be out on the street with that drug addiction in this community or the one right next door.”
Christy’s attorney Kris Brown argued that Christy has had a change in attitude.
“Some people get it the first time around,” she said. “Some people get it the 10th time around. With probation, there’s 18 months where hopefully there can be some change.”
The 2019 Legislature made substantial changes in the law that didn’t change the penalties for drug possession, but did change penalties for violating probation. In most simple possession cases, probation is mandatory, but not for someone with Christy’s lengthy record.
“I know how my record looks,” Christy said before sentencing. “I’ve spent a lot of time in this jail and a couple of times in prison. I am tired of this life I’ve been living, and I’ve been tired of it for a while now.”
Christy has drug arrests in Douglas dating back to 1991, and a few instances in which he tried to evade authorities that ended up in the news.
According to the Nevada Department of Corrections, he has four drug-related prison terms including two for trafficking and two for possession. He was last released from prison on a trafficking charge out of Carson City in February 2019.
He was arrested Sept. 14, 2020, on the possession charge and posted bail. He was given credit for a day in jail.
Young, who represented Christy in a 2012 case, said he had no confidence Christy would be successful on probation. Both the defense and prosecution were aware of the judge’s prior representation and agreed to having him hear the case.
“It is the policy of the State of Nevada to reduce punishments for addicts, but the state has left this as a felony,” Young said. “Mr. Christy had so many prior felonies and just got out of prison before this. I cannot rely on your word that you will do better on probation, because that’s completely contrary to your history.”
The new laws distinguish between technical and nontechnical violations. Technical violations, like being under the influence of an intoxicant are punishable by up to 30 days in jail for the first offense. A nontechnical violation, like absconding, can result in revocation of probation.