The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 (FSA) reduced what many have criticized as disproportionately harsh sentences for crack cocaine offenses. The sentencing ratio remains at approximately 18 to 1 for the amount of powder cocaine versus crack cocaine required to trigger the same penalty, but this is a significant reduction from a former ration of 100 to 1.
The federal sentencing guidelines were previously amended in 2007 in an effort to reduce the disparity between sentences for crack and powdered cocaine offenses. Although the sentencing guidelines were neutral with respect to race, in practice they resulted in defendants of color receiving harsher sentences than white defendants. Indeed, in 2006, more than four-fifths of crack cocaine offenders in the federal courts were black.
The 2007 amendments reduced the sentencing range for first-time offenders possessing five grams or more of crack cocaine from 63 to 78 months to 51 to 63 months. For first-time offenders possessing at least 50 grams, the sentencing range was reduced from 121 to 151 months in prison to 97 to 121 months.
Diminishing the Disparity in Sentences
Previously, the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking five grams of crack cocaine was five years; to warrant the same sentence for trafficking powdered cocaine requires 500 grams. The FSA increased the required amount to 28 grams of crack cocaine to trigger the five year mandatory minimum prison sentence; possession of 280 grams with intent to distribute will trigger a mandatory minimum 10 year sentence. The new guidelines also eliminated the five year mandatory minimum for simple possession of five grams of crack.
An Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug-related offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can explain your options and help you protect your rights. For more information, contact an attorney today.
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