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Federal Mandatory Minimum Penalties Under Reform

When he was 26 years old, Douglas Ray Dunkins, Jr. received a mandatory sentence of life without parole for his role in a Texas crack cocaine operation. If that operation had involved cocaine powder, the mandatory minimum sentence would have been 20 years and he would now be free.

While the decades-long U.S. “War on Drugs” is inarguably a just war, its mandatory minimum sentencing is in some cases unjust, and it is being reworked based on the experience of Douglas Ray Dunkins, Jr. and others like him. In January 2014, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill allowing prisoners like Dunkins to petition for resentencing under new rules. The Smarter Sentencing Act  would cut mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses in half and relax criteria, allowing defendants to escape mandatory rules. The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy leader of drug law reform, called it “the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years.”

And legislation is not the only path being used for reform. Deputy Attorney General James Cole has stated President Obama is interested in using his executive powers to grant clemency to low-level, nonviolent drug offenders who would have received substantially lower sentences if convicted today instead of years ago. Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) estimates nearly 9,000 crack offenders in federal prisons could qualify for shorter sentences under the proposed legislation.

If you have been accused of a drug crime, call the law offices of David Jay Glassman for skilled criminal defense representation in federal and state court.