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Mandatory minimums may not apply to low-level drug offenders

In a move that echoes a long-standing notion about low-level, non-violent drug offenders, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a new policy regarding how such criminal cases would be prosecuted. In remarks given at the ABA National Conference in San Francisco, Holder said that "Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.” 

With that, drug offenders with no ties to gangs or drug cartels will be charged with offenses that do not carry inflexible mandatory minimum sentences. This way, federal judges will have more power to determine sentences.

Holder has noted that the mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges has been largely responsible for the explosion in the federal prison population since the late 1980's. The 800 percent increase has led some to believe that the "War on Drugs" has largely been lost, since a generation of fathers (particularly African-Americans) has been incarcerated. 

The move also has its political overtones, as many Republicans and Democrats have supported it for fiscal and practical reasons. They recognize that widespread incarcerations are unsustainable with dwindling resources and rising debt levels.

As such, federal prosecutors are being directed to pursue dangerous, high-level drug dealers in an attempt to break the flow of drugs into vulnerable neighborhoods. He reiterated that a smarter approach to combating drug activity was necessary, and urged prison officials to consider compassionate release conditions for older, non-violent offenders.

Even with a change in policy, individuals charged with drug crimes can benefit from the assessment and advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

Source: NBC News.com, Holder: Some drug offenders shouldn't face mandatory minimum sentences, August 12, 2013

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