For decades now, the so-called war on drugs has led to hundreds of thousands of people being imprisoned for drug violations. Jails and prisons across the country are overwhelmed by people convicted of a drug offense, whether that offense was drug trafficking or possession of marijuana.
Critics of this heavy-handed approach argue that valuable law enforcement resources are being wasted on the drug war, and that sentences are overly harsh and ineffective at curbing illegal drug behaviors. Even former President Barack Obama has acknowledged that sentences for drug offenses run the risk of being too severe. Before he left office, Obama reduced the prison sentences for 10 people in South Florida who are serving drug-related sentences.
The 10 people who had their sentences shortened were all convicted of offenses involving cocaine. Some were convicted of conspiracy to possess, others were convicted of distribution. The sentences ranged from 16 years to life.
The commutations were said to reflect a more current view on drug crime sentences.
While this is certainly great news to the commutation recipients, it is not a good idea to expect or wait for similar presidential action if you are facing a lengthy prison sentence for drug-related offenses. These are not granted often and the vast majority of people convicted of a drug offense will serve their sentence, which are often several years long.
Instead, it would be a good idea to protect yourself from a conviction in the first place. A criminal defense attorney can be critical in challenging evidence and witnesses, negotiating plea deals, and scrutinizing police procedures, which can all be effective means of securing a reduction or dismissal of charges.
You must take your situation seriously if you are charged with a drug offense, even if it seems minor. Between the aggressive efforts of prosecutors and the heavy-handed sentences that are possible, the odds are not necessarily in your favor. However, with legal guidance and representation, you can fight to defend yourself and minimize your risk of serious punishment.