Washington, DC (June 30, 2011) – When the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was signed into law last year, something sad happened. Defendants who were arrested for possession or distribution of cocaine base, or crack, the day the law went into effect no longer faced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity and draconian mandatory minimum sentences of the 1986 law for possession of as little as 5 grams of crack, which was treated as severely as 500 grams, or over a pound, of powder cocaine. But persons arrested only the day before the law went into effect still faced the original severe penalties.
For more than two decades, low-level crack dealers were sentenced more severely than major powder cocaine traffickers even though both crack and powder cocaine are the same chemical with the same effects. This unwarranted disparity is particularly disturbing because of its racial impact – 83 percent of inmates serving time in the federal prison for crack cocaine offenses are minorities, and their sentences are more than 50 percent longer than inmates serving time for cocaine powder. Today’s unanimous vote by the U.S. Sentencing Commission making the federal crack sentencing guidelines retroactive is a step toward ameliorating those injustices.
While the legislation itself failed to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine completely, it did reduce that disparity to roughly 18 to 1. Since enactment, distribution of a gram of crack roughly draws the same sentence as distribution of 18 grams of powder. The federal sentencing guidelines now give previously convicted defendants the benefit of Congress’s reductions.
“The difference between crack and powder cocaine is cultural, not chemical,” said Houston attorney and NACDL President Jim E. Lavine. “The Commission’s own research indicates that over 80 percent of the non-violent offenders who will benefit from the new guideline are African-American or Hispanic. We can’t give back all the time that offenders served under the previous guidelines, but reducing prison time for those persons still incarcerated is a significant recognition of the unfairness of the old law.”
“A civilized society doesn’t mete out punishment based on a defendant’s culture or skin color,” Lavine said.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers thanks the Commission and the broad coalition of civil rights, community and criminal defense organizations and individual activists that worked to right a long-time wrong.
Cross-Examination Trial Pack
NACDL’s new Cross-Examination Trial Pack includes three of our best-selling Cross-Examination resources: “Damage Control: Situational Cross-Examination Techniques Trial Guide”, "Ultimate Cross 2.0: Audio Recordings & Written Materials" and "Sample Cross-Examination Questions."
This masterful collection of cross-examination resources provide countless tips, techniques and strategies for a variety of criminal case-specific scenarios. Learn to cross-examine a variety of trial witnesses!
Death Investigation: Forensic Pathology in the Courtroom and Cause & Manner of Death (2022)
This unique program provides criminal defense lawyers with an accurate and clear overview of forensic pathology and the countless factors to consider in a death investigation and will methodically explain what happens during an autopsy to determine cause and manner of death.
You'll uncover the different types of medicolegal death investigations, what to request from your MDI expert, quality benchmarks for accreditation and certification, guidelines and standards, common terminology and frequently asked questions.
The Psychology of Persuasion & Storytelling for Criminal Defense Lawyers
This Trial Resource Guide is a masterful collection of practical tips, techniques and strategies focused solely on using the arts and sciences of persuasion to improve your storytelling skills at trial.
You'll learn how to master the ability to communicate with juries, deliver powerful openings and closings, perform convincing cross-examinations, use effective courtroom choreography and non-verbal communication, identify and develop the optimal theme and theory for your case, and offer compelling arguments during mitigation and sentencing.
Zealous Advocacy in Sexual Assault & Child Victims Cases (2022)
Defending charges of sexual assault and child abuse can be daunting — but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
Every year, NACDL identifies the hottest topics and most pressing issues when defending these cases, and brings-in nationally-renowned lawyers and experts to help you prepare for battle. This year’s 13th Annual Defending Sex Cases training program is our best yet; packed with topics and speakers you won’t want to miss!
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.