A Utah resident may find him or herself facing charges for alleged drug crimes, ranging from drug possession to drug trafficking. Just as there is a wide variety of drug charges, there is a wide range in potential sentences, a person may face if convicted. One Utah politician thinks that some of these potential sentences are simply too severe for the crimes at issue.
Utah Senator, Mike Lee, has joined a bipartisan group of senators in advocating for criminal justice reform for the sentencing of drug offenses. Under current federal sentencing guidelines, there are mandatory requirements that judges must impose if a person is convicted of certain drug crimes. This means that judges sometimes have no choice but to impose extremely long prison sentences that may not be appropriate in light of surrounding circumstances.
Under the proposed federal bill supported by Senator Lee, mandatory minimum sentences would still exist, but judges would have wider discretion in sentencing persons convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and could give stiffer sentences in situations that they deemed more serious. If it passes, the bill would apply retroactively and prisoners already serving time under mandatory sentencing guidelines could petition courts to reconsider their sentences.
The federal prison population has grown in recent years, in large part due to persons convicted of drug offenses. According to data provided by The Sentencing Project, inmates who have been convicted of drug offenses represented more than half of the federal prison population in 2012, a significant increase from approximately 30 years prior, in which they represented just over 20 percent of the federal prison population.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, you may wish to seek legal counsel to advise you during what is often a difficult time.
Source: KSL, “Sen. Lee scrutinizes mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases“, Dennis Romboy, Oct. 2, 2015