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April 19, 2010

What's the status of crack/powder sentencing reform in the House?

As detailed in this post, just over a month ago the full US Senate unanimously approved legislation to reduce (but not eliminate) the notorious 100:1 ratio in the amount of powder cocaine versus crack cocaine that trigger statutory mandatory minimum sentences.  This compromise legislation as passed by the Senate cuts the ratio to roughly 18:1, and it does so by keeping powder sentences the same and by essentially reducing the severity of the mandatory minimums for crack offenses. 

As I have noted in prior posts, most advocates for crack/powder sentencing reform view this Senate compromise as an improvement over the status quo, but a lot less than was sought/hoped by reform advocates.  Consequently, as I flagged in this follow-up post, the next big question was whether the House will adopt this compromise so that it can become law.  Now, a full month later, we are still awaiting news on this critical question.

I have heard rumors from various sources that the House was likely to go along with the Senate compromise, and that this might get done in April.  But I have yet to hear any official word on this front, and I am wondering if (and worrying about) inertia and competing priorities might be preventing the House from getting this done. 

Helpfully, as we await further legislative developments, the folks at FAMM have a new FAQ (frequently asked questions) about pending federal legislation to reform crack cocaine laws at this link.  The FAQ includes a detailed response to this notable and challenging question: "If a person is in jail and has not been sentenced yet, should he postpone sentencing until a crack reform bill becomes a law?".

Some related recent posts:

April 19, 2010 at 08:58 AM | Permalink


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Will be watching with interest as it's highly likely we will need similar reforms in the UK.

Posted by: Employment Lawyers | Apr 19, 2010 11:01:12 AM

Corporate Attorney with family member interest.
Defendant sentenced to 25 years; 5k1 downward departure from mand minimum life ( 2 prior felonies and 50 grams triggers life). Case still on appeal.
Question : 1. Does case on appeal get benefit of law change without retroactive provision because case is still on direct appeal?
2. If sentencing commission makes guideline changes retroactive after new law passed will this apply to same convicted defendant since he was not sentenced mandatory minimum lfe due to 5k1.

Posted by: Tony | Jul 18, 2010 10:43:14 PM

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