Federal Crimes Sentencing Changes in Drug Laws

Following up on his recent proposals to reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentences in federal drug crimes involving non-violent, low-level drug offenders, United States Attorney General Eric Holder has now issued a new directive to all Assistant United States Attorneys advising them how to apply the new policies retroactively.

First, he ordered that the new policies should be applied to all defendants who have been charged with such drug crimes and are awaiting an adjudication.

Second, he encouraged prosecutors to seek relief from the harsh mandatory minimum sentences even in cases where a defendant previously entered a guilty plea and admitted to facts triggering a mandatory minimum sentence. The key it now appears is to judiciously use mandatory minimums in federal crimes drug law cases.

As we noted at the time, the efficacy of those initiatives, while promising, will depend to a great degree on the good will of the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who have virtually unfettered authority to select what charges should be filed, and on the DOJ's vigilant policing of those charging decisions.

As its title infers, it provides guidance on the all-important issue of whether the policies announced in the Holder Memorandum were designed to be applied prospectively only - or whether they would also apply retroactively. And, to head off what would probably be a flood of lawsuits on that issue, the August 29 Memorandum has directed that the U.S. Attorneys follow these rules:

For cases charged and awaiting adjudication of guilt: the policy is applicable to all such cases;

For cases in which guilt has been adjudicated and sentence has not yet been imposed: the policy may be applied in the discretion of the prosecutor, and prosecutors are encouraged to apply the policy in guilty-plea cases where legally and practically feasible; and

For cases in which sentence has been imposed: the policy is not retroactively applicable.

While the use of the phrase "where legally and practically feasible" in the second of those rules leaves a gaping hole that will certainly invite challenges, at least the DOJ has moved quickly to prevent the type of chaos that reigned after Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 without addressing the retroactivity issue in that federal crimes debacle.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • Badge 1
  • Badge 2
  • Badge 3
  • Badge 4
  • Badge 5
  • Badge 6
  • Badge 7
  • Badge 8

Contact O'Brien Hatfield, PA for a free case evaluation today

In Tampa, call (813) 345-4909. In Orlando, call (888) 496-5916 . For fast answers, email us using the form below.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

This site uses Google's Invisible reCAPTCHA, which is subject to Google's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Footer Brand

Tampa Bay Office
511 West Bay Street Suite 330
Tampa, FL 33606

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 813-345-4909
Tampa Law Office Map

Central Florida Office
121 South Orange Avenue Suite 1500
Orlando, FL 32801

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 407-686-1696
Orlando Law Office Map

South Florida Office
Northbridge Tower
515 North Flagler Drive
Suite P-300
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 407-686-1696
South Florida Office Map

South Florida Office
Brickell Bay Office Tower
1001 Brickell Bay Drive
Suite 2700 M-1
Miami, FL 33131

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 305-859-0046
Miami Law Office Map