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Can I get my federal drug sentence reduced?


Yes, you can get your federal drug sentence reduced. The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently lowered the offense levels for drug crimes by two levels and made the new law retroactive. That means those convicted and sentenced in the federal system for drug crimes can now apply to have their sentences reduced by about 25 months. This will apply to more than 46,000 inmates. The Federal Bureau of Prisons will notify inmates of their eligibility to apply for a sentence reduction. As a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, I have begun the process of helping clients get their federal drug crime sentences reduced. Why is this being done? In large part, to ease the burden of overcrowding of the prison system and to reduce costs. Will all of those serving a sentence for possessing or distributing drugs automatically have their sentences reduced? No. First, a federal inmate must apply for a reduction. Then, the inmates probation officer will re-calculate the inmates current sentencing guidelines as if the new law applied. The application will then come before a judge for review, to decide whether the applicant would be a danger to the community and to determine whether the applicant deserves a sentence reduction. The applicant's lawyer and the prosecutor will also be involved in the process. No one can be released before November 1, 2015.

What will the judge consider? In my opinion, the judge will look to see if the applicant has any violence in his or her past, the amount of drugs involved and his or her role in the original crimes, to name but a few factors. Low level, non-violent drug offenders serving harsh mandatory minimum 10 year sentences probably stand the best chance to have their sentences reduced. The process will will be like a new sentencing hearing. Expect federal prosecutors to oppose the sentence reduction (since they opposed the new law being passed in the first place).

Lesson Learned:

After many years of poor sentencing policy regarding drug crimes, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of less prison time for these types of crimes, since long sentences do nothing to deter drug crimes or drug addiction. While this sentencing reduction process will not be simple, it will provide relief for thousands who were caught up in the federal system of mandatory minimum drug sentences. While I think these reductions don't go far enough, at least it's a start. Lawyers should fight hard for these reductions since the federal government has approved them.

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