U.S. Remains Tough on Drug Crimes Despite Reductions in Charges by Federal Prosecutors
Nearly half of all federal prison inmates are incarcerated for drug offense convictions. While their crimes range in severity from simple possession to major trafficking operations conducted by organized crime, all offenders have been subject to strict mandatory sentencing imposed as a result of the war on drugs, which began in the 1970s. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced a change in prosecution guidelines that can potentially keep certain non-violent offenders out of jail. This does not mean, however, that alleged drug offenders no longer require a staunch criminal defense as they move through the federal criminal justice system.
Changes in mandatory minimum sentencing for certain criminal convictions are under Congressional control, but the office of the Attorney General establishes how federal prosecutors levy charges against defendants. By mandating that prosecutors follow new guidelines when deciding how to prosecute certain drug crime cases — or whether to prosecute at all — the criminal justice system can effectively make a difference in reducing the costs of incarceration without adversely affecting public safety. According to Reuters, the new prosecution guidelines would benefit offenders who meet the following criteria:
- Their crimes must be considered low-level.
- They must be non-violent drug offenders.
- They can have no ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels.
- They must have relatively clean criminal records.
Of course, even offenders who meet the new prosecutorial guidelines still need to call an experienced federal drug crimes defense attorney immediately upon arrest. A dedicated lawyer can work with prosecutors to help ensure their clients do not face draconian sentences for minor crimes.