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Federal drug prisoners can now petition for shorter sentences

As of Nov. 1, federal drug sentencing reforms from earlier this year went into effect. The changes affect both current federal drug crime prisoners and future offenders.

The US Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted in April to reduce sentencing guidelines. In July, the commission voted in favor of making the new sentencing guidelines retroactively available to current federal drug prisoners.

Now, prisoners can petition the courts to get their sentences reduced. If the courts approve the petition, federal prisoners could be released earlier than expected. Effectively, this could reunite offenders with their families sooner and address issues such as prison overcrowding.

However, it is important to understand that the new guidelines do not reduce any mandatory minimum sentences. Only prisoners who have been sentenced to more than the mandatory minimum time will be eligible for a sentence reduction.

Judge Patti Saris, chair of the USSC, said, "The reduction in drug guidelines […] represents a significant step toward the goal the Commission has prioritized of reducing federal prison costs and overcrowding without endangering public safety."

For individuals tied up in the criminal justice and prison systems, this is an extremely positive change. Knowing that judges may be able to use more discretion when it comes to sentencing for drug cases can also open up new opportunities for defense lawyers and how they approach a case.

For more information on drug charges, how a defense lawyer can help and some of the most common types of drug crimes in the Orlando area, please visit our main drug crimes page.

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