Facing a potential drug crime conviction is a serious matter. As some Texas residents might appreciate, the state takes drug crimes seriously and imposes harsh sentences on any convicted persons. Depending on the drug involved and the details of the accusation, an individual might even face federal charges for a drug crime. When that occurs, it is the federal sentencing guidelines that apply in determining the penalties for a conviction. When facing any drug charge, it is important to be aware of one’s rights and the law.

Recently, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight individuals who had been convicted of federal drug crimes, which he stated were unduly harsh. Specifically, all eight individuals were sentenced under a previous version of the federal guidelines that imposed heavier penalties for crack cocaine possession than those crimes involving the powder form of the drug.

Under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, penalties for crack cocaine possession were reduced in order to address disparate application of the law to certain offenders, depending on whether crack or powder cocaine was involved. Historically, blacks were more likely to be caught possessing crack cocaine, whereas whites were more likely to be convicted of crimes involving powder cocaine. However, this law only applied to future cases, not those of individuals who already had been convicted. The individuals whose sentences were recently commuted have already served 15 years in prison. Had they been convicted after the 2010 act was passed, they would have served their entire sentences and be released.

There is no question that certain laws can affect particular groups of people in greater numbers, such as the example in this situation, which was based on the type of drug involved. This is why there are efforts to adjust consequences in order to avoid disparate impacts. However, the criminal justice system is not perfect and it is certainly imperative that one fight for one’s rights when facing any potential conviction.

Source: Burleson Star, “Obama commutes sentences for 8 drug convictions,” Nedra Pickler, Dec. 19, 2013