Someone who faces sentencing after a criminal conviction will likely worry about the harshness of the penalty. Defendants convicted of offenses related to crack cocaine often dealt with tougher sentencings than those arrested and convicted of powdered cocaine offenses. A recent Supreme Court decision might affect sentencing guidelines in Massachusetts courts.
The Supreme Court rules on drug controversies
In recent years, the passage of the First Step Act of 2018 and the Fair Sentencing Act opened doors to address potentially excessive penalties for convictions related to crack cocaine. Judges look at the overall circumstances of the arrest and charges, and the Supreme Court noted judges could go beyond circumstances occurring at the time of the arrest.
Some sought relief for their original sentences under the Fair Sentencing Act. A 5-4 Supreme Court decision noted the judges might look at not only how laws changed since a defendant’s original sentencing but also any rehabilitation the defendant underwent. The decision may help those currently dealing with seemingly unfair long prison sentences determined on federal crack cocaine charges.
Crack-related and other drug charge sentencings
A defendant will appear at a sentencing hearing when convicted of a crime. Some crimes might come with mandatory minimum sentences, but the court could show leniency when assigning the maximum prison time or fines. The court could potentially be lenient with this sentencing when there is no mandatory minimum.
A criminal defense strategy could focus on requesting a reasonable sentence based on all the facts surrounding the case. A nonviolent offender might ask for far less prison time than someone involved in a violent confrontation.
Noting that a defendant volunteered for drug rehabilitation or has no previous criminal record may help. The court might consider other factors during the sentencing phase.