Schwartz & Powell

Crack Cocaine Federal Sentences to be Reexamined

by Steven D. Powell Attorney at Law

Federal sentences for drug offenses involving crack cocaine may now be reexamined by federal courts.

About 12,000 federal inmates presently imprisoned for crack cocaine offenses can begin filing motions November 1 to reduce their sentences. The U.S. Sentencing Commission speculates that an average offender’s sentence could be reduced by as much as three years. This new rule allows reconsideration of sentences triggered by “mandatory minimum” sentences no longer authorized under present federal statutes.

Any federal prisoner doing time under the former “mandatory minimum” sentencing scheme should contact a federal criminal law defense lawyer to see whether he or she is entitled to relief.

The interesting thing about this legal issue is, as the commission stated, that “An overwhelming majority of crack cocaine offenders are African American” which has caused an “unwarranted disparity in sentencing” between African American offenders and other offenders imprisoned for other cocaine crimes.

This “disparity” has been going on for the last fourteen years and is only now being meaningfully redressed. It is unclear whether the “redress” is rooted in notions of equality and fairness or economics or both. Some commissioners highlighted that the ostensibly “justice motivated” reform will save the Federal Bureau of Prisons about $200 million over 5 years. Housing an inmate in federal prison costs $27,000 a year and the federal prison population is at 137% of capacity.

Whether “justice” or “economics” drives this reform is irrelevant to those who may benefit by moving for a reduction in their sentence. As for the rest of us, it has to make us ask some hard questions about who and what we are individually and as a society.

My partners and I would not be a good fit to represent anybody affected by this new development. But do get in touch with an experienced federal litigator to see if you or a loved one might be entitled to relief far too long delayed.

SCHWARTZ & POWELL

805.658.8955

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