What Is the Crack Cocaine Amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?
Historically, federal law treated those convicted of crack cocaine offenses much more harshly than those convicted of offenses involving cocaine. This is despite the fact that chemically the substances are very similar and physiologically they react with the body in the same way. The sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and cocaine offenses was originally 100 to 1. This means that if a conviction for 100 grams of cocaine would result in a 30 year sentence, it would only take 1 gram of crack cocaine to get a 30 year sentence.
The difference in the law had an enormous effect on who gets the harsher punishments, as crack cocaine is found more often in neighborhoods that are predominantly occupied by African Americans and cocaine is generally found in more affluent, White areas. This resulted in the over incarceration of African Americans in the United States.
Over the years, civil rights advocates and criminal defense attorneys called for a more fair sentencing structure that treats the two drugs more similarly. Lawmakers eventually realized that this distinction was not scientifically supported and had contributed to the over criminalization of African Americans over the years. A few years ago, the federal government took a step in the right direction and decreased the disparity between the two drugs. In 2010, lawmakers reduced the crack/cocaine disparity to about 18 to 1. While still far from equal, this was a welcome step by many because it showed willingness to compromise on the issue. These changes went into effect on November 1, 2011.
Retroactivity of the Amendment
Once the lawmakers decided that the sentencing scheme was not fair as written, and that it needed to be rewritten to reduce the disparity, that raised another question: Can it be retroactively applied?
Unfortunately, despite the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act, there are thousands of people — the vast majority of whom are African American — still in prison serving excessive sentences based on the discredited 100:1 sentencing disparity. In May of this year, a majority panel of the Sixth Circuit concluded that it was unconstitutional to allow thousands of already incarcerated offenders to continue to serve extremely long sentences based on the 100:1 disparity, while allowing offenders – who have committed identical crimes – to receive significantly shorter sentences, based on the 18:1 sentencing calculation, simply because they were sentenced later.
However, this decision has been appealed. We are still awaiting a decision. I am wondering if the 6th Circuit overstepped its power. I seem to remember congress being the only branch of government with the power to retroactively apply a statute.
To find out if you are eligible for a sentence reduction, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case.
Have You Been Charged With the Possession of Crack or Cocaine Base?
If you have been charged with a federal drug offense, you are facing some serious jail time. The best thing to do is to ensure that you have the assistance of an experienced New Orleans federal criminal defense attorney as soon in the process as possible. The longer your attorney is able to work on your case, the better the chances are of negotiating the case out of court and avoiding the expense and stress of trial.