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Proposed Federal Law Would Reduce Sentences for Nonviolent Drug Crimes

Jeff Cole
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Partner at Zimmer, Duncan & Cole

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12/3/2015
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New legislation—with bipartisan support—was recently introduced in Congress to reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent federal drug offenses. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act is designed to address the over-incarceration of people convicted of nonviolent crimes. Currently, the United States imprisons more people than any country in the world, and a disproportionate number of these prisoners are black, Latino, low-income, and non-violent.

How the Proposed Federal Law Could Reduce Your Sentence

The goals of the proposed legislation would be to increase fairness in sentencing, motivate prisoners to not commit new crimes once released from prison, and reduce prison costs. Key features of the law include:

  • Judges would have discretion to reduce sentences below the minimum mandatory standards for nonviolent drug offenders.
  • Mandatory life sentences for non-violent offenders who were convicted of these crimes three times would be eliminated, and their minimum sentences would be reduced to 25 years.
  • Some current inmates could get their sentences reduced by as much as 25 percent by participating in rehabilitation programs if they are at low risk of committing another crime.
  • New programs would be enacted to help prisoners successfully re-enter society after completing their sentences.

This legislation is being backed by some of the most powerful senators—both Republicans and Democrats. In addition, the Obama administration has stated its support for this proposed bill. While this law only affects people facing nonviolent federal charges, South Dakota has also enacted criminal law reforms, including a state law to reduce the terms of probation for nonviolent criminals.

If you have been charged with a federal nonviolent drug charge, this law, if passed, could result in you receiving a shorter sentence. In addition, if you were already convicted of this type of crime, you may be able to have your sentence reduced. Contact your attorney if you are facing sentencing or have been sentenced to potentially take full advantage of this law.

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Category: Criminal Defense

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