News Release

NACDL supports elimination of mandatory minimums Rep. Waters bill will permit return of judicial discretion and fairness to drug sentencing

Washington, DC (May 23, 2001) -- In support of the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2001, introduced today by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Carmen Hernandez, chair of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Committee for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, issued the following statement:

"Rep. Waters' bill recognizes a key issue that has contributed to the bad feeling about the ''war on drugs'' and its effect on our citizens: that judicial discretion is better than prosecutorial discretion for ensuring that fairness is taken into account in drug sentencing.

"The statistics of racial inequity stare us in the face, and judges are helpless to do anything about it under the current sentencing scheme. Just as importantly, at the whim of an overzealous prosecutor, a minor player in a drug deal can end up with more time than a kingpin for not being first in line to supply testimony, real or fabricated, against other participants.

"As criminal defense lawyers, we see firsthand, every day, the destruction of lives that could be salvaged by a more rational approach. The fact that the judicial conferences of all 12 federal circuits support the repeal of mandatory minimums suggests that they see the same problems we do.

"The public is becoming more aware that a change in our approach to the drug problem is necessary. Congress should pass this bill as a first step in the right direction."

Waters' bill eliminates mandatory sentencing for simple possession, distribution, manufacturing and importation of drugs. 

Hernandez practices criminal defense law in Washington, D.C.

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NACDL Communications Department

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 legal system.