Holder Applies New Drug Sentencing Policy to Pending Federal Cases


The Obama administration expanded its effort to curtail severe penalties for low-level federal drug offenses, ordering prosecutors to refile charges against defendants in pending cases and strip out any references to specific quantities of illicit substances that would trigger mandatory minimum sentencing laws, reports the New York Times. The move, announced by Attorney General Eric Holder to the Congressional Black Caucus, builds on a change he unveiled last month to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing laws in future low-level cases.

“By reserving the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers or kingpins, we can better enhance public safety,” Holder said. The policy applies to defendants who meet four criteria: the offense did not involve violence, use of a weapon, or selling drugs to minors; they are not leaders of a criminal organization; they have no significant ties to large-scale gangs or drug trafficking groups; and they have no significant criminal histories. The Justice Department ordered prosecutors to apply the policy retroactively to defendants in the system who have not been sentenced.

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