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Cocaine Sentencing Change on the Horizon

Attorney General Eric Holder has joined supporters in erasing the disparity in sentences for crack cocaine and cocaine crimes. During a legal discussion sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus he said: “One thing is very clear: We must review our federal cocaine sentencing policy.”

On a more local note, on June 15, 2009, the Honorable Cameron McGowan Currie, United States District Judge for the District of South Carolina, concluded that a 1-to-1 ratio between crack cocaine and cocaine was appropriate in sentencing a defendant represented by Strom Law Firm, LLC. She continued by saying that in crack cases the Court would consider whether an upward variance was appropriate for aggravating factors related to violent conduct.

Although the support for a change in sentencing continues to grow, many lawmakers are unsure just how to change these guidelines. The Obama administration is arguing for a strict 1-to-1 ratio in sentencing. However, there is a debate as to whether to close the gap by lowering the penalty for crack cocaine while increasing the penalty for powder cocaine.

Tough penalties for crack cocaine offenses are also affecting how juries rule during trials. According to Holder, juries have acquitted black defendants because they believed the sentences the suspects faced were unfairly long.

Virginia Democratic Representative Bobby Scott agrees the current 100-to-1 sentencing ratio is racial discrimination. He says, “there is a compete consensus that the present pattern for sentencing crack and powder is absurd; there is not a complete consensus about what to do about it.”



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