President Obama has commuted the sentences of over 550 federal prisoners convicted of non-violent drug crimes, says federal drug defense attorney John Helms.
Some have suggested that this shows that the President does not value law and order. I disagree. I applaud what he has done, and I believe his commutations promote fairness, justice, and respect for our criminal justice system, adds Dallas federal drug defense attorney John Helms.
First, it is important to understand what commuting a sentence means. Commuting a sentence is different from a pardon. A pardon means that the person’s conviction is wiped off the records. A commutation means that the person is freed from prison before their sentence has ended, but they still have a conviction on their record.
To understand why the commutations were necessary, it is important to understand some background on federal drug sentences. For many years, the federal system effectively required inordinately long sentences for people who participated in drug trafficking, even if their involvement was relatively minor and there was no violence. Judges also had little discretion to give shorter sentences, even if the facts called for them. Almost everyone who actually works in the federal criminal justice system realized that the system was broken reveals drug trafficking lawyer Helms.
Over the last several years, there have been a number of reforms that have made significant improvements. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which are no longer mandatory, have been modified to make recommended drug sentences more reasonable. The US Justice Department has also implemented policies that federal prosecutors follow that increase fairness for the accused in drug cases. In the last few years, sentences in federal drug cases have therefore been more fair and reasonable than they were in the past.
But those reforms did not address sentences handed down before the reforms. President Obama’s commutations do. The commutations apply the principles of the reforms to past sentences by effectively reducing them. In other words, we have addressed the problem going forward, and the President is attempting to right the wrongs of the past by freeing people after they have already served a lengthy sentence, but before they have completed it.
Now that a wider range of punishment options are possible in federal drug cases, the efforts of a criminal defense lawyer can have even more impact on the final sentence. It is therefore more important than ever for drug defendants to hire a skilled and experienced federal drug defense lawyer. As a former federal prosecutor with a number of recent federal drug sentencing successes, I welcome the opportunity to help those accused of federal drug crimes when they need it most.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a federal drug crime or are facing any other criminal charges, contact John Helms federal drug defense attorney in Dallas immediately. Call 214-666-8010