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DOJ lends support to retroactive sentencing guidelines

The Department of Justice is making bold moves to combat prison overcrowding, while still addressing public safety. In light of new sentencing guidelines for those already imprisoned on drug charges, the DOJ now moves to support reduced sentencing to those currently incarcerated.

In July 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission will vote on whether to approve retroactive application of the new guidelines. Before this landmark meeting, the Department of Justice went on record as publicly supporting reduced sentencing for drug offenders who have not been involved in violent crimes. Attorney General Eric Holder cautions that everyone currently in prison for drug-related offenses would not be eligible for this retroactive sentencing. In addition, everyone who is eligible is not guaranteed a reduced sentence.

In addition to the support of the DOJ, the American Bar Association is also urging the commission to adopt the new plan. James Felman, ABA's liaison to the sentencing commission, believes that this plan is a moral imperative. Felman believes retroactive sentencing preserves prison resources by freeing those who are not in need of further punishment. In his view, the current system is unnecessarily severe because of the prior quantity-based guidelines that were used in sentencing.

If adopted, the new guidelines could be a great help to current non-violent drug offenders who are serving time. The current sentencing guidelines and prosecutors who sometimes over-charge drug crimes can result in hefty prison sentences that negatively affected the future of those convicted. Any defendant currently facing drug trafficking charges needs the skilled representation of a defense attorney. The right attorney will challenge and limit punishment so that one mistake does not overshadow a defendant's future.

Source:, "ABA and DOJ seek retroactive application of new federal drug-sentencing guidelines," Martha Neil, June 10, 2014

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