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Mandatory Minimum Drug Penalties Policy Change

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced a sweeping policy change that will employ a common sense approach to the application of federal mandatory minimum drug penalties.


The Policy

In his speech at the American Bar Association's annual meeting, the Attorney General noted that "with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter, and rehabilitate - not merely to warehouse and forget....[M]any aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems, rather than alleviate them."

This policy is meant to eliminate an inflexible approach that runs contrary to the statutory intent of mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws by applying these penalties to certain low-level, non-violent offenders.

The Target Criteria

Holder also issued a memorandum outlining the Department of Justice's Policy on Charging Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Recidivist Enhancements requiring "an individualized assessment" into "the specific circumstances of [each] case."  This straight-forward, common sense approach is not possible where strict application of mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws occur.

Additionally, under this policy, prosecutors are directed to decline to charge the quantity necessary to trigger certain mandatory minimum sentences where four (4) criteria are met:

  1. The conduct does not involve violence, weapons, or minors;
  2. The defendant is not the leader of a criminal organization;
  3. There are no significant ties to large-scale drug trafficking; and,
  4. The defendant does not have a significant criminal history.

If the intent of the policy is achieved through its practical application, both the interest of the individual and society will be better served.

Harrisburg PA Drug Defense

"Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed."  - former President Jimmy Carter

These words were spoken by the former President of the United States during a speech he delivered to Congress in 1977.  Through the words of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in his speech and memorandum announcing policy changes for certain mandatory minimum drug sentences, President Carter's message was recognized and extended beyond mere possession by America's chief law enforcement officer.

However, these spoken and written words are empty and meaningless without action.  Real world application of policy and law is acheived when both the prosecution and defense recognize and invest in this shared goal to strike a balance between deterence and rehabilitation, individual and societal interests. 

This shared goal has the best chance at being realized when an experienced and compassionate Harrisburg Criminal Defense Lawyer is part of the equation.

If you have been accused of marijuana possession or any drug crime, contact us for a free phone consultation immediately.

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