Federal criminal sentencing for most non-violent offenses is extremely harsh. This is because the law imposes mandatory minimum punishments on offenders if the given drug charged is above a certain threshold weight. This has resulted in a huge increase in the prison population of non-violent drug offenders in the United States, which in turn has become a bipartisan political issue recently. The House Judiciary Committee's Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 is one of the main proposals seeking to reform the current situation. Here are some of the key proposals of this law as they relate to current drug laws:
Reform of Mandatory Minimums for Drug Offenses: • Reduces the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years and the two-strike sentence from 20 to 15 years. • Applies these sentencing reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of greater than 13 months. • Allows drug sentences to be enhanced based upon prior convictions for serious violent felonies. • Includes a sentencing enhancement for trafficking in Fentanyl, a highly addictive and deadly drug. Broadens the Existing Safety Valve and Creates a Second Safety Valve: • Expands the existing drug “safety valve” to offenders with prior misdemeanor convictions but excludes offenders with prior felonies, or prior violent or drug trafficking convictions. • Permits courts to find that a defendant's prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant's criminal history and danger of recidivism. • Creates a second safety valve that allows judges to sentence certain offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
While these proposals probably don't go far enough in establishing more fairness in sentencing, they are an important step in reducing the prison population and creating a sentencing scheme that more fairly punishes non-violent drug offenses. If you or a family member or loved one are charged with a drug offense, contact the office of Sherick & Bleier, PLLC at 520-318-3939.