Prison inmates with hopes of getting their sentence reduced for possessing crack cocaine may not appreciate a ruling by the Supreme Court. The First Step Act provided for changes across the board that affects the criminal justice system. Virginia inmates may wonder why they didn’t receive a reduced sentence.
The reality of reduced sentences in criminal cases
Criminal defense attorneys have long fought for individuals who received the same sentence as major offenders convicted for possession of crack cocaine. In 2010, Congress effectively changed the law to provide lesser charges for individuals not yet convicted. Sentencing guidelines underwent another change in 2018 with the passing of the First Step Act. The act allowed convicts currently serving in prison to seek a reduced sentence. The wording of the act allows for the reduction of a sentence for those with high-level offenses while excluding low-level offenses.
Unless Congress fixes the problem, the Supreme Court ruled against reduced sentences for low-level offenders. Under the old law, an individual who possessed just a few grams of crack cocaine would receive the same sentence as an individual who possessed nearly 100 times that amount.
While more than 3,000 inmates received a reduced sentence that secured their release, the low-level offenders must wait for Congress to fix the problem and create relief. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that the act only applies to offenders who triggered a mandatory minimum and urged Congress to correct the problem.
Getting help with criminal defense and sentences
The spirit of the First Step Act hoped to provide relief for low-level offenders. The wording of the act does not bear this out based on the recent Supreme Court ruling. Offenders seeking to obtain a reduced sentence should still seek all available legal options to protect their rights.