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Holder: drug sentencing reforms having a positive impact

Readers have all heard the phrases, "tough on crime," and "war on drugs." Fewer have heard the phrase. "smart on crime," which is the phrase currently used at the Department of Justice in reference to changes in the way prosecutors are handling drug crimes. A primary purpose of the initiative is to address the problem of overcrowding in federal prisons. One of the ways this has been done is to pursue more lenience in sentencing when it comes to drug cases involving nonviolent offenders. Another way has been to allow certain drug offenders to reduce their sentences under certain circumstances.

These and other drug sentencing reforms, according to a recent presentation by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, have begun to be successful. Holder presented various statistics to demonstrate this conclusion, including the fact that the number of cases in which federal prosecutors sought mandatory minimum sentences has decreased and the number of defendants charged with drug trafficking offenses has been on the decrease, despite the fact that drug trafficking itself has not been decreasing. Part of the reason for the latter statistic may be that more federal authorities are allowing state and local authorities to handle these offenses, but commentators agree that this cannot be the entire explanation.

There is no doubt more work needs to be done in addressing drug sentencing reform, especially with respect to offenses involving marijuana, but the overall trend is in a positive direction. For defendants facing federal drug charges, of course, it is especially important to work with an experienced attorney to reduce the consequences of drug charges. This is especially the case at present when there is momentum for change on this front.

Criminal defense advocacy, when done right, should begin well in advance of trial and extend after conviction through the sentencing phase. With certain federal drug crimes, a strong defense at sentencing can help make a significant difference in the outcome of a case, depending on the circumstances. Those who work with our firm can be sure that we are committed to providing the best possible advocacy to those facing federal drug crimes through the entirety of the process.

Source: The Washington Post, "The Justice Department is getting smart about drug sentencing. Here's the data to prove it.," Christopher Ingraham, Feb. 17, 2015.

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