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Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Low-Level Drug Offenders

Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. made a huge announcement, declaring that nonviolent, low-level drug offenders might no longer be facing mandatory minimum sentences. In fact, Holder hopes that community service and drug treatment could replace prison sentences for many of these offenders. With mandatory minimums, this meant that all federal drug offenders met with harsh penalties, regardless of the context. For instance, judges could be forced to hand down the same decades-long sentences to a first-time nonviolent offender as to a drug trafficker who was a gang member. These sentences have also overcrowded federal prisons, as Justice Department officials have said that the prison population is nearly 40 percent over capacity. Nearly half of all inmates in federal prison are there to serve a sentence for a drug conviction. According to civil rights groups, these mandatory minimums unfairly hit poor minority communities the hardest.

Thus he called for an end to mandatory minimums, and he has already taken the first steps toward this. Federal prosecutors have been told under what circumstances to file federal drug charges. The goal is that no federal charges would target nonviolent low-level drug offenders who pose no danger (e.g. who have no gang or cartel membership). Without federal charges, a mandatory minimum sentence would not be an option. Further, Holder is calling for new legislation that would effectively end these sentences for good, and he may even have the support in place from both political parties. In fact, the chances of sentencing reform looked good enough for a Colorado judge to grant a defendant a postponed sentence hearing. The judge thought that by November, the defendant might no longer be faced with these mandatory minimums.

As exciting as these potential changes are, for those already facing drug charges, these changes might not reach them. Even if you have not been charged with a federal drug offense, any charge could be a threat to your freedom, as well as your future. You do not want to live life with a criminal record. If you are facing drug charges, contact Hopper, Hopper & Mulligan, PLLC immediately. Work with an experienced Raleigh criminal defense attorney, who can provide the sterling representation that you deserve.

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