Washington, DC (April 11, 2014) -- Yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission took another step toward making federal drug sentences more reasonable. The agency approved an amendment that would reduce the guidelines level for most drug offenses by two levels, amounting to an 11-month sentence reduction on average. NACDL applauds the Commission’s action and urges Congress not to obstruct this modest, incremental reduction. Unless Congress rejects the "drugs-minus-2" amendment, which was approved as part of a larger package of amendments, the change would go into effect November 1, 2014. While the lower offense levels would apply only prospectively, the Commission yesterday asked for public comment on whether this change should be made retroactive. NACDL strongly supported the original amendment in its comprehensive comments, and intends to file comments supporting retroactivity.
Addressing the change, NACDL President Jerry Cox said: "This reduction is a modest step towards a more rational and humane sentencing scheme, one that does not substitute cold calculations of drug quantity for full and robust judicial consideration of factors that more accurately reflect culpability."
Unfortunately, ameliorating inappropriately high guidelines will not solve the larger problem: inflexible, draconian and fiscally unsustainable mandatory minimum sentences. This requires congressional action, namely that Congress take up and pass the Smarter Sentencing Act. This bipartisan legislation, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and also pending in the House, would cut in half mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses. It is supported by NACDL, a host of civil and human rights organizations, some law enforcement and prisons guard organizations, several conservative organizations, as well the Department of Justice.
Act now to support the Smarter Sentencing Act
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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.