Being convicted of a drug crime in federal court has never been a good thing, but the consequences of a conviction will be a whole lot worse for defendants under a new policy ordered by new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reversing the Obama-era leniency towards those facing drug charges. What this means is that many of those facing charges for non-violent drug crimes can end up spending years and even decades longer in prison under the new charging guidelines put in place by Attorney General Sessions, and, as such, defendants should do everything they can in mounting an aggressive defense, including working with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
“Prosecutors Should Charge the Most Serious, Readily Provable Offense…”
The first of the major changes instituted by the May 10 Sessions memo is that all federal prosecutors are now obliged to “charge the most serious, readily provable offense” and that the “most serious offense” is defined as the offense that brings with it the longest sentence, including crimes that involve mandatory minimum sentences. Although the memo does provide prosecutors with limited leniency to depart from this practice of pursuing the most serious offense, they must receive approval from a United States Attorney in order to do so.
In addition, the memo requires prosecutors to provide the court with all evidence which would impact its decision in applying a sentence under the federal sentencing guidelines, rules which have long imposed extremely long sentences on non-violent offenders.
A Change From the “Smart on Crime” Policy
The new federal policy reverses the “Smart on Crime” drug prosecution policy set in place former Attorney General Eric Holder in a 2013 memo. In that memo, Holder said that prosecution under mandatory minimum laws resulted in “unduly harsh sentences” and, as such, charging defendants with mandatory minimum offenses should be reserved for “serious, high-level, or violent drug traffickers.”
Based on those principles, Holder instructed prosecutors to consider declining to prosecute offenders under the mandatory minimum laws where the defendant did not use violence or the threat of violence, did not traffick to children, did not belong to a gang or cartel, did not run a drug operation, and did not have a significant criminal history.
What This Means for Federal Drug Offenders
With the new Sessions memo, however, Holder’s previous guidance is no longer applicable and all federal drug offenders will be charged with the most serious offense available, regardless of criminal history, gang/cartel connection, or violence. Furthermore, prosecutors will be instructed to present all potential evidence against defendants in order to seek the longest sentence possible.
Thus, those facing federal drug charges are strongly encouraged to explore all legal strategies and options in their defense to work towards the limited grounds for leniency granted under the new policy or to present a compelling case for dropped charges or a not guilty verdict.
Tough Criminal Defense to Fight Drug Trafficking Charges
Oklahoma City criminal defense attorney Patrick Quillian has the knowledge, experience, and tenacity to fight your drug trafficking charges and work towards a closed investigation, dismissal of charges, not guilty verdict, or other favorable outcome. Contact the office of J. Patrick Quillian, Attorney at Law, today at 405.294.4448 to schedule a free consultation to see what his criminal defense team can do for you.