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What changes in drug crime sentencing means for you

Most Florida residents are aware that the location of our state in relation to Mexican, Caribbean, Central American and South American drug cartels makes us an ideal entry point for a wide variety of illegal drugs. In fact, the Miami-Dade Metro area has a long-standing history of drug crimes including drug trafficking.

In the past, the federal government viewed its best defense against drug traffickers as long sentences of incarceration. Recently, the United States Commission on Sentencing took a hard look at that "lock them up and throw away the key" approach to fighting drug crimes and determined that policy to be unsustainable. Now, unless Congress acts to amend new recommendations proposed by the USSC by Nov. 1, 2014, many defendants sentenced for drug trafficking could experience reductions in the length of their prison terms.

The proposed changes basically work by reducing offense levels assigned on the drug quantity table by two. Sometimes called the "drugs minus two" changes, this amendment has the potential to change the lives of thousands of current prisoners and their families, in addition to those sentenced after the amendment goes into effect.

However, although the USSC estimates that as many as 46,000 offenders may be eligible under the new "drugs minus two" amendment, it is important to know that no one will automatically receive a sentence reduction. The amendment contemplates that an offender must still meet certain eligibility criteria in order to remain within the best interests of justice.

Florida residents currently serving lengthy prison sentences for drug crimes, and their families should take note of these recent changes and consult with their attorneys to see if whether or not they fit into these applicable standards for sentence reduction.

Source: U.S. Sentencing Commision, "Frequently Asked Questions: Retroactive Application of the 2014 Drug Guidelines Amendment" Sep. 23, 2014

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