In recent weeks, the Obama administration has been commuting the sentences of various individuals across the country who are serving time for drug offenses. The administration may be sending a message about the need for sentencing reforms involving non-violent drug convictions.
That message has particular significance for the Eastern District of Virginia, where sentences for crack cocaine dealers are reportedly the highest in the country. In fact, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has identified this district as having the most inmates eligible for reduced sentences.
Although there are federal sentencing guidelines, authorities also have some discretion in how they pursue charges against a criminal defendant. In the Eastern District of Virginia, that discretion might take the form of aggressive prosecution.
For example, a recent commutation involved a Virginia defendant who was arrested for dealing crack with a gun. That charge alone implicates serious penalties. However, federal prosecutors also added a second charge for a gun owned by the defendant, even though it had not been present at the scene of the crime. The stacked gun charges resulted in a very long sentence. Fortunately, the conviction for the second gun charge was later set aside, pursuant to a post-trial motion.
This story is a sobering reminder of the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing drug charges. Even seemingly minor offenses may snowball into serious charges, especially in the hands of aggressive prosecutors. Fortunately, the attorneys at our Leesburg, Virginia law firm have experience defending against a wide variety of criminal drug charges. Some of our attorneys are even former prosecutors.
Source: WVTF, “As Obama Commutes Drug Sentences, Virginia Inmates Targeted,” Michael Pope, Dec. 27, 2016