Odd congressional partnership tackles federal sentencing

Last month we talked about Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that the Obama administration was working toward reducing and eliminating draconian sentecing, often caused by mandatory minimum sentences. Especially prevalent with federal drug crimes, nonviolent, first-time offenders are sent to prison for years. For one woman serving time in Waseca, her mother questions why her sentence had to be so long.

Unfortunately, the federal judge who ultimately sentenced her recognized that the then-27-year-old woman was not a threat to the community, but that he had no choice but to sentence her to 15 years in prison. Oddly enough, her live-in boyfriend, the one whose drugs and weapons police found when they raided her apartment, has a shorter sentence because he agreed to testify against his former girlfriend.

It may be a beacon of hope, but there has been an odd pairing in the Senate recently between liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans who are working to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences. One of the bills currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee would give judges the ability to set aside a mandatory minimum sentence in certain situations. Whether politicians are approaching this topic from a financial perspective or the human one, many family members of incarcerated drug offenders are hoping for change.

Until both houses of Congress can pass some sort of reform, however, anyone accused of a federal drug crime must work hard to have charges dropped or lowered to prevent exceedingly harsh mandatory minimum sentences. If they don’t, they may spend decades in prison.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Congress Looks To Relax Mandatory Prison Terms,” Henry C. Jackson, Sept. 17, 2013

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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