Low-level crack cocaine offenders in Michigan and around the country recently received bad news about the possibility of a reduced sentence. The Supreme Court ruled that the wording in the First Step Act benefits convicts who possessed larger amounts of crack cocaine, but it doesn’t apply to those arrested for carrying small amounts.
Why the court won’t help every convict
Criminal defense attorneys who hoped to seek relief for their clients convicted on charges of possessing small amounts of cocaine suffered a blow with the recent Supreme Court ruling. The court weighed whether the First Step Act provided relief for convicts arrested for possessing only a small amount of crack cocaine. The court decided unanimously that the act only applies to offenders who possessed larger amounts of the drug.
During the 1980s, Congress passed a law that ensured anyone caught with crack cocaine would serve the same sentence. In 2010, Congress changed the law to provide for more flexible sentencing for low-level offenders. Convicts serving sentences received relief in 2018 when the First Step Act passed, but the wording only applied to people who possessed larger amounts of the drug.
The Supreme Court suggested that Congress holds the power to fix the wording of the act. Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a statement in support of the necessary changes. If Congress acts to change the wording, offenders serving sentences must have qualified attorneys on hand to expedite their release in a timely manner.
Support for convicts lacking recourse
Convicts must stay updated on any pending changes to the First Step Act. Changes in wording may mean a reduced sentence. Attorneys who represent clients convicted of a low-level drug offense actively work to provide every option at their disposal to seek a reduction in sentencing.