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Florida federal drug crime sentencing sees changes

Readers in Florida know that being charged with and found guilty of a crime can lead to stiff penalties. In many cases, this is because of mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have been enacted on both the state and federal levels. Now, readers may be surprised to learn that some of the penalties for federal drug crime may be changing.

Eric Holder, the Attorney General, recently gave a speech in which he noted that there has been a substantial increase in the number of people in prison for federal drug crime over the past few decades. Many of these people are serving long terms as a result of the mandatory minimum that relates to the amount of drugs that they were said to have possessed when arrested. It is that number that Holder seeks to have changed.

Now, if a person is accused of federal drug crime, the prosecutor in the state, like Florida, cannot list the amount of drugs that were possessed by the accused. This can help to circumvent the mandatory minimum that is based on amounts of drugs possessed. This act alone could give local judges the opportunity to allow some people accused of federal drug crimes to have lesser sentences than they may have otherwise.

The changes would only apply to cases in Florida or elsewhere in which the person being accused had not been violent, was not a leader of a criminal organization, had no significant ties to gangs or cartels and had no significant criminal history. Those that do not meet these standards may still face mandatory sentences for federal drug crime. However, there are changes being made to the laws and it may do well for those who stand accused to continue to watch the changes.

Source: The New York Times, "Justice Dept. Seeks to Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences," Charlie Savage, Aug. 12, 2013

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