Leahy, Paul Seek “Safety Valve” to Allow Terms Below Mandatory Minimums


Two senators want to give federal judges the ability to impose prison terms shorter than required mandatory minimums, an option long requested by defense attorneys and judges who feel restricted by sentencing laws, reports the National Law Journal. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act, which allows judges to sentence offenders below the statutory requirements “if the court finds it necessary to do so.” The option is currently available in some drug cases; this law would extend the discretion to all federal crimes. Leahy, a former prosecutor and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the bill will “combat injustice in federal sentencing and the waste of taxpayer dollars by allowing judges appropriate discretion in sentencing.” Mandatory minimum sentences are an important factor in the increasing costs to house federal inmates, with $6.8 billion in tax dollars going to the Federal Bureau of Prisons last year instead of other law enforcement programs, Leahy said.

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