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Broad law on fighting crime is constitutional, court decides

In a split decision, the state Supreme Court said Thursday that awide-ranging crime-fighting law put on the books in 1987 was constitutional.

The 4-3 decision rejected the appeals of two defendants convicted of selling and buying cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, a crime that carried tougher penalties under the 1987 law than drug transactions conducted elsewhere.

Their attorneys claimed the legislation failed to stick to a single subject, thus violating state constitutional provisions.

The state's high court has upheld other laws that were more diverse than the challenged law, according to Justice Stephen H. Grimes, who wrote the majority opinion. Grimes described the 1987 law as covering three basic areas: comprehensive criminal regulations and procedures, money laundering and safe neighborhoods.

In the minority opinion, Justice Leander J. Shaw Jr. noted that it took eight pages just to describe the title of the challenged act, which includes 76 sections.

Shaw said the law's provisions dealt with unrelated subjects. He conceded that crime prevention is a "common thread" linking the provisions but added that "improvement of the criminal justice system" is not a reason for putting all the provisions in one bill.