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President seeking to commute sentences in non-violent drug crimes

Drug crimes continue to be a major point of discussion in the national media. But unlike past discussions about “getting tough” on drug crimes, the goal at present seems to be “getting fair” on sentencing for non-violent drug offenders.

In recent months, the Obama administration has made clear its goal of seeking reforms to the nation’s drug laws and sentencing guidelines for non-violent drug crimes. Although the president has urged Congress to solve or improve these issues with legislation, he also appears to be utilizing the full powers of the executive branch in an attempt to offer some relief to certain drug offenders currently serving long prison sentences.

Most people know that the President of the United States can issue pardons to those convicted of crimes. A pardon essentially voids a conviction. But presidential authority also allows for the commutation of criminal sentences. This action keeps a conviction intact but reduces the consequences related to it.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced that the Justice Department is seeking applications from (or on behalf of) individuals convicted of non-violent drug crimes currently serving sentences longer than what they might receive if sentenced under current guidelines. Holder suggested that President Obama would like to commute the sentences of any and all drug offenders whose cases meet these criteria after being thoroughly screened by the Justice Department.

Two-term presidents tend to make much more liberal use of their powers of pardon and clemency in their second term because they do not need to worry about re-election. The same seems to be true with President Obama. Still, this very public search for commutation applicants seems to be unprecedented. Hopefully, it is a sign that we can expect additional common-sense legal reforms in the future.

Source: Politico, "Holder: Obama to dramatically expand drug clemency," Josh Gerstein, April 21, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

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