Readers who have been paying attention to issues in federal drug policy know that significant changes have occurred in recent years. Among these changes is a movement toward greater lenience for nonviolent drug offenders. Earlier this month, President Obama took another step in this direction by commutating criminal sentences for a total of 46 inmates. Here in Florida, two inmates had life sentences commuted.
The most recent round of sentence commutations, which brings President Obama’s total to 89, was an effort to correct imbalanced penalties for crimes that occurred years ago. Fourteen of the inmates had been sentenced to life in prison for nonviolent drug crimes, but all the inmates met very specific criteria laid out by the Justice Department.
In order to be eligible for sentence commutation, the offenders must have served at least 10 years of their sentence, demonstrated good conduct while in prison, and have no significant criminal history. The two Florida inmates who received clemency both obviously met these criteria.
Current drug prosecution policy is, of course, more balanced than it was years ago, though it is always important for a defendant facing such charges to work closely with an experienced attorney to make sure they build the best defense case possible. Even in cases where a defense attorney is not able to have charges thrown out or to have the defendant acquitted, building a strong defense case helps to ensure that prosecutors are held to their full burden of proof and that a defendant’s rights receive due advocacy.