Phillip A. Linder
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by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization

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The Lunacy Of Drug Crime Sentencing

Under mandatory minimum sentencing laws, drug crime convictions can result in penalties as severe as a life sentence without parole. You might think sentences this harsh are imposed only if violence, or the threat thereof, accompanied the offense. You would be wrong. According to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, in an article published in the New York Times, thousands of people now serve unconscionably long sentences for non-violent drug crimes thanks to the mandatory minimum sentencing rules.

Even some judges and prosecutors chafe at these sentencing laws, relays Mr. Holder. Many would like to see the laws changed to allow for broader judicial discretion in sentencing and support bipartisan efforts in Congress to do just that. Sentences out of proportion to the crimes not only harm individuals and communities, but burden government budgets.

Obscene Prison Populations And Budgets

In the article, Mr. Holder shares the statistics on the rate of increase in prison populations, local, state and federal, over the last forty-five years. Until the late seventies, Americans held about 130 people per 100,000 in penal institutions. Then, from 1970, through 2005, the prison/jail population skyrocketed sevenfold from about 300,000 total prisoners to 2.2 million. The American incarceration rates now exceed those of the most oppressive communist countries, sticking the taxpayers with an annual bill for 80 billion dollars.

Reformed Mandatory Sentencing Laws May Be On The Way

The absurdity of jailing huge swaths of non-violent people for decades on end has begun to catch up to sensible people in the right positions, according to Mr. Holder. While still in office, former Attorney General Holder initiated a Smart on Crime program aimed at reforming the sentencing laws, especially for low-level drug offenders. At present, both the House and Senate have legislation under review that, if passed, will introduce some sanity into the federal sentencing structure.

Until that happens, however, the possibility of a sentence far disproportionate to the alleged drug crime hangs over the heads of suspects.

If you've been charged with any type of drug crime, you have no time to lose in hiring a lawyer experienced in criminal defense against drug prosecutions. The police are well-versed in manipulative interrogations that take mistakes or involuntary admissions as proof of guilt. If arrested for drug crimes, you should demand a lawyer immediately and remain silent until your lawyer arrives. At the law office of Phillip A. Linder, we have over 20 years of experience handling drug-related cases. We're familiar with police and prosecutorial practices and can protect your rights during your contact with the legal system. 

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