Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Congress Addresses Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

Congress has finally addressed a controversial sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine. Since the 1980's those convicted of possession of crack cocaine were being punished more harshly than those possessing powdered cocaine.

The disparity existed in the amount of cocaine possessed and the application of mandatory minimum sentencing. Under current federal law, 5 grams of crack triggered a mandatory sentence of five years while it took 500 grams of cocaine to trigger the same sentence--an offender needed 100 times more powder cocaine to receive the mandatory.

Many critics of the law contend that the 100:1 disparity had a disproportionate impact on African-American men. The change has come after more than 25 years of debate and considerable consternation by federal judges who looked for ways around the application of the mandatory minimums.

President Obama is expected to sign the legislation that will reduce the 100:1 disparity to 18:1, which raises the threshold to 28 grams of crack for a mandatory five-year sentence, according to The National Law Journal.

To read more: http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1202464009761&Congress_Passes_Bill_to_Cut_Federal_Sentences_in_Crack_Cocaine_Cases

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