Published on:

Attorney General Urges Change in Mandatory Sentencing

Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that he is mandating a change to Justice Department policy regarding no longer requiring charging of crimes with mandatory minimum sentences in the cases of individuals who have committed low-level, non-violent drug crimes who do not have ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels.gavel.jpg

The current mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, which were a product of the 1980s war on drugs campaign, severely limit judicial discretion in imposing shorter prison sentences.

Under Holder’s proposal, defendants will be charged with offenses carrying sentences that are more in accordance with their individual conduct, rather than prison sentences, which are more appropriate for violent criminals or high level drug offenders.

Federal prisons are currently operating at an estimated 40% above capacity. Reportedly, some half of the inmates are serving time for drug related crimes, many of whom have some sort of substance abuse disorder. An additional estimated nine to ten million prisoners are processed through local jails each year.

The Attorney General believes that mandatory minimum sentences are counterproductive, don’t necessarily decrease recidivism, and make people distrusting of the justice system.

A group of bipartisan senators recently introduced legislation that would give federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimum sentences in certain drug offender cases.

The new approaches are being referred to as the “Smart On Crime” initiative. Additional suggestions include the diversion of state funds toward treatment and supervision, rather than new prison construction.

While the Attorney General’s plans apply to federal laws, there are obvious corollaries for state policy makers. Additionally, it is up to prosecutors to decide whether cases are charged as federal or state matters, and if the conduct meets the requirements of potentially satisfying the elements of both.

Massachusetts has mandatory sentences for second or subsequent cocaine and heroin offenses. However, even in cases where mandatory sentences are not currently implicated, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes crimes involving drugs very seriously.

Additionally, crimes involving the distribution, manufacturing, or dispensing of drugs are considered even more dangerous than mere possession, and prosecuted to the utmost extent, based upon the reasoning that these types of crimes involve the safety of the community at large. If you are charged with drug crimes such as possession, possession with intent to distribute, distribution or trafficking of illegal drugs or narcotics, it is crucial that you obtain the best legal counsel to defend you and protect your rights.

If you have been charged with a drug crime within the state of Massachusetts, you will want to ensure that you have an aggressive, knowledgeable, and experienced Boston defense attorney on your side. Contact the Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy, Esq. today in order to schedule your free and confidential legal consultation. You can contact us by calling 617-367-0450 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Two Men Arrested in Connection with Train Station Altercation, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published August 8, 2013
New York Woman Charged with Larceny in Connection with Boston Marathon Fund, Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published July 25, 2013