Attorney General Eric Holder, the man responsible for upholding federal drug law, recently stated that sentences in low-level federal drug cases should be reduced. This statement comes not long after Holder said that low-level drug offenders would not be automatically charged with offenses which imposed mandatory minimum sentences. These statements are among efforts ease up on harsh drug policies that have resulted in overcrowded prisons.
According to the Pew Research Center, there is fairly widespread public support for easing up on drug policies. Public support has grown significantly since 90s, and many states have already taken steps to ease up on drug policy. These include lowering penalties for possession, removing automatic sentence enhancement, and shortening mandatory minimum sentences. These efforts at the state level haven’t gotten as much air time as federal efforts, but probably impact more people.
Much of the change in policy is driven by overcrowding in prisons and strained state budgets. Keeping low-level offenders out of prison helps financially and allows for sentences that are more appropriate for these people, such as treatment and diversion programs. The latter is a form of sentencing designed to allow offenders to avoid criminal charges by imposing alternative penalties such as education, restitution, and community service.
Those who are charged with a federal drug crime really need to work with an experienced attorney to help them build a solid defense. Depending on the case, there are a number of issues that can arise and a good criminal defense attorney will understand how to navigate the process.
Source: Pewresearch.org, “Feds may be rethinking the drug war, but states have been leading the way,” Drew Desilver, April 2, 2014.