By Christopher Zoukis

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Department of Justice either declining to charge or waiving more severe charges for those involved in certain nonviolent, low-level drug cases.  The rumors inside federal prison have run the gambit from the new policy being retroactive to it only affecting those with gun convictions, both of which are categorically incorrect.  In matters of law and policy, it is always best to learn the truth from official U.S. Government documents or directly from judicial opinions, not hearsay, summaries, or third party opinions.

As a service to the Prison Law Blog readers, enclosed below is the memorandum from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder concerning the new policy revisions which his office has put into play.  We implore you to review this memorandum as it clarifies the DOJ’s position on this matter and shows how federal prosecutors will be applying the new guidelines to applicable offenders.  By reading the memorandum, you can understand exactly who it applies to and how federal prosecutors can use it in certain cases.

The memorandum reads as follows:

MEMORANDUM TO THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS AND ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE CRIMINAL DIVISION

FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL

SUBJECT: Department Policy on Charging Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Recidivist Enhancements in Certain Drug Cases

In Alleyne v. United States, 133 S.Ct. 2151 (2013), the Supreme Court held that any fact that increases the statutory mandatory minimum sentence is an element of the crime that must be submitted to the jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that for a defendant to be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence, prosecutors must ensure that the charging document includes those elements of the crime that trigger the statutory minimum penalty.

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By Christopher Zoukis

The United States Sentencing Commission is responsible for the promulgation and periodic revisions to the United States Sentencing Guidelines used in the federal courts.  The Commission has recently submitted a report to Congress, in which it identified thirteen points warranting comment.  One of these areas deals with Guidelines provisions used in child pornography sentencing, in response to a growing number of such cases, many the result of expanded federal jurisdiction.  There appears to be a growing chorus of legal experts — on both sides of the courtroom — urging reform of the sentencing provisions used in such cases.  We at Prison Law Blog concur.  

In accordance with the stance which we have taken, the Prison Law Blog has submitted the following letter to the United States Sentencing Commission.  We strongly suggest that you either add your contact information to the below letter and submit it to the Commission, or write your own letter stating what you feel the Commission’s priorities should be in this fast-changing legal arena.  The deadline for accepting public comment ends on July 15, 2013.  So, do not delay.  Today is the day when your voice can be heard.  Together we can help to make the American criminal justice system a more equitable and evenhanded enterprise.

PRISONLAWBLOG.COM’S LETTER TO THE UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSION

U.S. Sentencing Commission

One Columbus Circle, NE, Suite 2-500

South Lobby

Washington, DC 20002-8002

Attention: Public Affairs Priorities Comment

July 5, 2013

Dear Sir/Madam:

I am writing in reference to your recent list of tentative priorities for Congress to address.  I wish to be heard on this matter and to have my comments considered by your organization as part of the public comment period.

 

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