Washington, DC (June 30, 2011) – When the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was signed into law last year, something sad happened. Defendants who were arrested for possession or distribution of cocaine base, or crack, the day the law went into effect no longer faced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity and draconian mandatory minimum sentences of the 1986 law for possession of as little as 5 grams of crack, which was treated as severely as 500 grams, or over a pound, of powder cocaine. But persons arrested only the day before the law went into effect still faced the original severe penalties.
For more than two decades, low-level crack dealers were sentenced more severely than major powder cocaine traffickers even though both crack and powder cocaine are the same chemical with the same effects. This unwarranted disparity is particularly disturbing because of its racial impact – 83 percent of inmates serving time in the federal prison for crack cocaine offenses are minorities, and their sentences are more than 50 percent longer than inmates serving time for cocaine powder. Today’s unanimous vote by the U.S. Sentencing Commission making the federal crack sentencing guidelines retroactive is a step toward ameliorating those injustices.
While the legislation itself failed to eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine completely, it did reduce that disparity to roughly 18 to 1. Since enactment, distribution of a gram of crack roughly draws the same sentence as distribution of 18 grams of powder. The federal sentencing guidelines now give previously convicted defendants the benefit of Congress’s reductions.
“The difference between crack and powder cocaine is cultural, not chemical,” said Houston attorney and NACDL President Jim E. Lavine. “The Commission’s own research indicates that over 80 percent of the non-violent offenders who will benefit from the new guideline are African-American or Hispanic. We can’t give back all the time that offenders served under the previous guidelines, but reducing prison time for those persons still incarcerated is a significant recognition of the unfairness of the old law.”
“A civilized society doesn’t mete out punishment based on a defendant’s culture or skin color,” Lavine said.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers thanks the Commission and the broad coalition of civil rights, community and criminal defense organizations and individual activists that worked to right a long-time wrong.
A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence: A Trial Practice Handbook for Criminal Defense Attorneys
This Guide to Federal Evidence is the only federal evidence handbook written exclusively for criminal defense lawyers. The Guide analyzes each Federal Rule of Evidence and outlines the main evidentiary issues that confront criminal defense lawyers. It also summarizes countless defense favorable cases and provides tips on how to avoid common evidentiary pitfalls. The Guide contains multiple user-friendly flowcharts aimed at helping the criminal defense lawyer tackle evidence problems. A Defender’s Guide to Federal Evidence is an indispensable tool in preparing a case for trial.
Modern Digital Evidence & Technologies in Criminal Cases
Modern cases need modern defenses, and modern lawyers can't practice with an outdated playbook. This program is a contemporary training that identifies emerging technologies and digital evidence encountered in today's criminal cases and arms you with the tools necessary to combat expert witnesses, prosecutorial overreach, and an uneducated judge and jury. This comprehensive CLE program covers both general aspects of new technologies as well as practical courtroom application and legal challenges to the use of these new technologies.
Top Shelf DUI Defenses: The Law, The Science, The Techniques (2021)
If you are serious about being an effective DUI defense advocate, or if you’re considering adding DUI defenses to your portfolio, you need to know the latest scientific and legal strategies to optimize your success at trial. Learn from the best-of-the-best in the field in this unique CLE Program, updated for 2021.
Defending Modern Drug Cases (2021)
From challenging the arrest and seizure to picking a jury and cross-examining police officers, defense attorneys handling drug cases must be able to construct a defense that will increase the chances of the client getting a positive result for your client.
Effective motion practice, juror selection, and storytelling have never been more important. This seminar will introduce defense counsel to techniques that have been used at recent drug trials to rebut specific claims and overcome the emotion created in today’s criminal legal system.
NACDL Communications Department
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.