Chicago readers may have heard that Attorney General Eric Holder recently voiced support for a reduction in sentences for low-level drug offenders charged with federal offenses. Holder’s position essentially calls for loosening the grip on mandatory minimum sentences. This is a major shift in drug policy, but as the Pew Research Center recently pointed out, it is a shift that many states have already made, including the state of Illinois.
The idea behind this position is to reduce populations in federal prisons. Being that roughly half of federal inmates have been convicted of drug offenses, the impact of this new approach could be widespread.
Part of what has contributed to the shift in policy is changing public perception of drug use. The states of Washington and Colorado have already legalized marijuana. Eric Holder voiced support for both states’ laws shortly after their passage. Sometime this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is going to be voting on proposed amendments to the sentencing guidelines, and it will be interesting to see whether changes are happening there too.
When an individual is charged with a federal drug crime, there is a lot at stake. Although state laws have eased in recent years, it is critical to build a solid defense. Depending on the case, there are a number of issues that can come up. One common issue is search and seizure. When officers fail to conduct a search correctly, there are remedies a defendant can take if that case goes to trial. To take advantages of these protections, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Source: Pewresearch.org, “Feds may be rethinking the drug war, but states have been leading the way,” Drew Desilver, April 2, 2014.