Last week, President Obama exercised his pardon power to commute sentences for 42 nonviolent drug offenders, twelve of whom are from Florida. October first will reportedly be the last day in prison for 11 of the offenders, each of whom had been sentenced to at least 15 years in prison. Nine apparently had been sentenced to life in prison.
The recent round of commutations brings the number to a total of 348 individual who have benefited from commutation during President Obama’s time in office. The aim with the commutations has been to help bring relief to offenders who received sentences greater than warranted given their crimes. It is just one aspect of the Obama administration’s attempt to bring about criminal justice reform. Commentators say it is possible, even likely, that President Obama will announce additional commutation before leaving office.
The reforms President Obama has sought are largely targeted at lightening sentences for non-violent offenders and brining about more equity in sentencing for drug offenses. The harsh policies from the War on Drugs era did not always concern themselves with just and fair sentencing.
Sentencing, of course, is an area of criminal defense for which it is essential for a defendant to build a strong case. This is especially the case for federal offenses falling under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The guidelines are not mandatory, but judge do take them serious when considering an appropriate sentence. Defendants need to have zealous advocacy navigating the guidelines and the entire sentencing process to ensure the government doesn’t exert undue influence on the process.
We’ll say more about this topic in our next post.