Before leaving office in January 2017, President Obama took action to reduce harsh sentences handed out to people convicted of federal drug crimes. He believed that sentencing guidelines had condemned too many people to lengthy prison terms. He expressed his desire to undo the systematic injustice imposed on people in Illinois and throughout the country by harsh mandatory minimum sentences. His final batch of commutations significantly reduced the sentences of 330 people held in federal prisons.
His action represented the largest amount of commutations granted on a single day. During his presidency, he commuted the sentences of 1,715 people. Among those to whom he gave a second chance, 568 of them had been serving life sentences.
Because Congress had ignored Obama’s multiple requests to reform sentencing laws, he made commuting the sentences of federal drug offenders a priority. The president spent time reviewing each case before granting relief. Generally, each prisoner needed to have served at least 10 years and been a nonviolent offender.
When law enforcement arrests people for alleged drug crimes, legal representation might help the defendants avoid a harsh sentence. A conviction on state or federal drug charges can result in lengthy incarceration and steep fines. A criminal defense attorney could have different strategies to refute the allegations, depending upon the facts and circumstances of a particular case. One potential line of inquiry could be to challenge the search that led to the seizure of the drugs as being made without the requisite probable cause. If successful, this could lead to the suppression of the evidence and a potential dismissal of the charges.