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Will Proposed Federal Reforms to Drug Crimes and Sentencing Impact Your Case?

by | Jan 27, 2021

It is important to understand how proposed reforms from the White House can impact current and future NY criminal defendants at the local, state and federal levels. 

As seasoned NYC criminal defense lawyers, D’Emilia Law is taking note of new approaches to drug crimes and sentencing – which often go hand-in-hand. A general overview can help you understand how your case may be impacted by the Biden administration’s criminal justice reform plan. 

Drug Crimes

D’Emilia Law has particular experience handling drug crimes. We began our careers prosecuting drug crimes in NYC and launched our firm to proudly represent defendants. A brief review of the federal government’s approach to drug crimes in recent decades can help put some of President Biden’s proposals in perspective and you may better understand how it impacts your case.

In the 1980s, President Reagan launched a “War On Drugs” across the United States. This resulted in Congress passing laws requiring minimum prison sentences for certain drug offenses. The action appeased many hardliners, but critics and criminal defense lawyers felt the punishments were unnecessarily strong for certain offenses, such as the sales of small amounts of drugs. 

Many drug crimes are prosecuted by the federal government. Getting a majority of both houses of Congress to agree on removing mandatory minimums may be a bit of a pipe dream so soon into a new administration. 

But that’s not to say all hope is lost for drug crime arrests. For example, in 2013 then-Attorney General Eric Holder set a precedent by suggesting federal prosecutors be more thoughtful when seeking minimum sentences. If the White House feels such methods were effective, its attorney general may revisit them. 

Furthermore, the administration is aiming to end “the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity.” This is welcome news for addicts, advocacy groups and criminal defense lawyers. According to the Drug Policy Alliance

There are no pharmacological differences between powder cocaine and crack cocaine. […] chemically, they are nearly identical and hence, produce similar results. Until 2010, this sentencing disparity was 100 to 1, which means that while just 5 grams of crack would carry a 5-year mandatory minimum, it would take 500 grams of cocaine to trigger the same 5-year sentence. While the law was changed in 2010, there continues to be a disparity of 18 to 1. 

Crimes for selling, manufacturing, possessing and using these drugs are serious, and you should contact a NYC criminal defense lawyer if you are charged with these crimes.   

Cannabis and marijuana drug crimes have also been addressed. For example, Biden’s plan to decriminalize the use of cannabis also calls for the coinciding expungement of prior cannabis use convictions. As previously discussed, expungements are not allowed in New York, but a federal mandate to the New York criminal conviction sealing law (§160.59) may apply and allow you to seal some criminal records. 

It is important to note that you can still be arrested and charged for certain crimes involving cannabis; this only indicates that heavy prison sentences may not be sought by the state. 

As seasoned NYC drug crimes lawyers, we have an intricate knowledge of how the criminal justice system treats alleged first-time and repeat offenders, which has bolstered a record of success and favorable results in representing defendants.

Jail and Prison Sentencing

The COVID-19 pandemic had an unprecedented impact on how New York handles incarceration. Because prisons have been described as “petri dishes” for infection, Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed the release of at least 3,400 people from prison in 2020 who were a few months from their release and serving time for low-level offenses. Anyone serving time for a violent offense, including sex crimes, was not considered. 

Your case may be impacted as state tries to flatten the infection curve again. With the governor leading the state’s COVID prevention efforts – and aiming to avoid the health risk posed in prisons – state and federal prosecutors may be more likely to accept pleas for misdemeanors and lesser, non-violent felonies. 

Scientific and medical data projects that COVID infections will continue to rise in the first half of 2021, even as millions of vaccine doses are administered. Staying in regular contact with your NYC criminal defense lawyer can only strengthen your case. 

Bail Reform

The Biden administration is also considering methods to replace cash bail payments, since they claim it disproportionately harms low-income individuals. 

Bail is the fee a defendant must pay in order to stay out of jail, whereas a bond is posted by someone else on the defendant’s behalf. The bail or bond amounts will depend on the severity of the charges. 

This could be good news for defendants who may not be able to post bail. But removing cash bail payments, of course, does not mean defendants are in the clear. For example, failing to show up for your court hearings will result in consequences such as jail time.

Whether you face state or federal criminal charges, you and your NYC lawyer should be aware of how a new White House agenda may impact the criminal justice system and your defense.

If you or a loved one has been charged with any crime in New York, contact the NYC criminal defense lawyers of D’Emilia Law for a consultation.

criminal justice reforms