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Attorney General’s ABA Speech on Drug Charges Mandatory Minimums

Oct 31, 2013 | Drug Charges

In a major speech on drug charges and mandatory minimums to the Annual Meeting of the American Bar Association on August 12, 2013, United States Attorney General Eric Holder amplified that message by stating that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law enforcement reason”; and that “we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.” Among the many memorable highlights of his speech, AG Holder made the following observations:

“[F]ederal prosecutors cannot – and should not – bring every case or charge every defendant who stands accused of violating federal law. Some issues are best handled at the state or local level. And that’s why I have today directed the United States Attorney community to develop specific, locally- tailored guidelines – consistent with our national priorities – for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.”

“[W]idespread incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable. It imposes a significant economic burden – totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone – and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”

“We will start by fundamentally rethinking the notion of mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related crimes. Some statutes that mandate inflexible sentences – regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a particular case – reduce the discretion available to prosecutors, judges, and juries. Because they oftentimes generate unfairly long sentences, they breed disrespect for the system.”


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