Never before has the Justice Department approached an issue involving unfair sentencing within the American justice system quite like this. Certainly, presidents have granted clemency to individuals before in low numbers. However, the Justice Department recently encouraged both criminal defense attorneys and low-level offenders convicted of certain federal drug crimes to submit clemency applications en masse.
Specifically, the Justice Department is trying to right a sentence-related injustice to the extent that it currently can. No one can give individuals who have served overly-long and unjust sentences back the time they have spent behind bars. However, the Justice Department can help many individuals return to wider society earlier than they had expected to.
As we have previously noted, lawmakers recently revised a sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine users. Thanks to both Congress and the Supreme Court, individuals sentenced after the law was passed are now subject to relatively just sentencing terms. But this revision to existing law has done nothing for individuals sentenced under previously aggressive and unjust laws.
In order to better address this current disparity, the Justice Department is encouraging anyone eligible for clemency to submit an application. Generally, the individual applying for clemency must have served some portion of his or her sentence resulting from a low-level federal drug conviction and this sentence must have been handed down before the revised law took full effect. In addition, applicants generally must not have committed violent acts in association with their crimes.
If you or a loved one may be a good candidate for clemency, please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney with questions.
Source: New York Times, “Justice Dept. Starts Quest for Inmates to Be Freed,” Matt Apuzzo, Jan. 30, 2014