Changes proposed for federal drug crime sentencing

The federal mandatory minimum sentencing structure may soon face major changes.

A group of senators is pushing to reform the current sentencing scheme for penalties associated with federal drug crimes. According to a recent article by The Washington Post, the majority of the American public would support a change. The report states that 77 percent of Americans are in favor of change, finding that " mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders should be eliminated so that judges can make sentencing decisions on a case-by-case basis."

Although the current proposal does not completely eliminate the mandatory minimum sentencing system, it does make major changes.

More on the proposal

This most recent push for reform is gaining media attention because it was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators. Republican and Democratic representatives alike have put together this proposal, and it appears likely to pass Congress in the near future. Skeptics voice concerns that the bill will face a less promising fate in the House, stating the House may be too divided to accept the proposal. The Chicago Tribune reports that the legislation will likely be introduced to the House Judiciary Committee soon.

A recent piece in PBS discussed the bill, noting some of the more prominent provisions proposed within the bill include:

  • Mandatory minimums. A number of changes to the current mandatory minimum sentencing structure are included. Some examples include a limitation on the offenses that would trigger mandatory minimum sentencing and a reduction on the enhancement of these mandatory minimums for repeat drug offenders.
  • Increased discretion. The bill also aims to provide judges with an increased level of discretion in sentencing those charged with drug crimes. This is in contrast to the current system, which imposes predetermined mandatory minimum sentences, often without taking the details of each situation into account.
  • Changes for juveniles. A number of changes focus on juveniles. Examples include a limitation on solitary confinement and the possibility to expunge or seal convictions.

It is also important to note that a number of these changes would apply retroactively, allowing those who are currently serving time for similar convictions to reduce their sentences.

Importance of legal counsel

Although the ultimate fate of this proposal is unknown, the discussion highlights the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing charges of drug crimes. Whether currently serving for a qualifying crime or facing charges, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. This legal professional will review the details of your case, working to better ensure your legal rights are protected.