In the 1980s, a time when the War on Drugs was at its fiercest, the U.S. government set mandatory minimum sentences in place for federal drug crimes. These minimum sentences have led to a trend of overly harsh sentencing for individuals who are convicted of federal drug crimes. Mandatory minimum sentences make it so that individuals who are convicted of certain types of drug crimes (or those who have certain mitigating factors in their federal drug cases) cannot have their prison terms set lower than a specific threshold—even if a judge believes the pre-set sentencing standards to be too severe for a particular case. There have been many cases in which lower-level, nonviolent drug offenders are slapped with extreme sentences (including decades-long prison sentences and life prison sentences) simply because of the technicalities of the mandatory minimum sentence system that is in place.
Fortunately, change concerning these mandatory minimum sentences is currently brewing in Congress. In February, BloombergView reported on the introduction of a bill that proposes to do the following: significantly lower mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking convictions, give some convicted individuals who are already in prison the ability to have their sentences reduced, and provide federal judges with a higher level of power in using their own discretion in these types of criminal cases.
The current mandatory minimum sentences are set at 5-year, 10-year and 20-year prison terms. Those sentences can be drastically increased with the addition of other mitigating factors, such as previous drug convictions. According to the BloombergView article, the bill proposes to reduce the mandatory minimum sentences 2-year, 5-year and 10-year terms. The legislation would, however, keep harsher restrictions in place for drug cases in which the crime resulted in someone's death.
According to information provided by Human Rights Watch, almost half (48%) of defendants who are charged with federal drug crimes are those who carry out "low-level functions." These are roles such as couriers or street-level drug dealers. Yet, three-fourths of those defendants receive convictions that make them subject to mandatory minimum sentences.
While change is being proposed concerning mandatory minimum sentences, defendants today still have to deal with the reality of these overly severe penalties for federal drug crime convictions. If you are someone who is charged with a federal drug crime, you will need the strongest line of defense in place so that you can improve your chances of avoiding an unfair conviction or excessive sentencing. If you are looking for a skilled Fort Worth drug crime lawyer, all you have to do is reach out to my criminal defense firm, The Law Office of Samuel R. Terry, P.C. I can help you take action to defend your rights! Contact my firm to learn more about the legal services I offer.