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Sentence Reductions for "Crack" Cocaine Offenders

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Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 made Retroactive Affects 1000's

By Attorney Elisabeth Pasqualini, Criminal Law Division Leader, Harrisburg, PA


S. 1789, known as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, passed in Congress on July 28, 2010, and President Obama signed the bill into law on August 3, 2010.

In brief summary, the new law does four main things:

FIRST, it changes the statutory 100:1 ratio in crack/powder cocaine quantities that trigger the mandatory minimum penalties under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1);

SECOND, it reduces the statutory 100:1 ratio to 18:1, by increasing the threshold amount of crack cocaine to 28 grams (for the 5-year mandatory minimum) and 280 grams (for the 10-year mandatory minimum);

THIRD, it does away entirely with the 5-year mandatory minimum for simple possession of crack, and

FOURTH, it directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to amend the Sentencing Guidelines to reflect the statutory changes made by the new law.

What does this mean for the 12,000 or so that may be affected in the federal system? It means that those sentenced after  November 1, 2010 will receive sentences under the new lower Guidelines.  This may occur regardless if they entered a guilty plea.

What does it mean for those who were sentenced before November 1, 2010?  It means that they will see reductions as well, absent a rejection of the Sentencing Commission's determination of retroactivity by Congress.

What should you do to take advantage of these substantial reductions?  Get a copy of the PSI or PSR (Pre-Sentence Investigation or Report) that the office of probation put together to make a sentencing recommendation.  An attorney will need this to fashion your petition.  Contact us at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us for information about your petition. 

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