THOUSANDS OF NONVIOLENT FEDERAL PRISONERS MAY GET EARLY RELEASE UNDER NEW CLEMENCY CRITERIA

In an effort to “restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality” in federal sentencing the Department of Justice is finally moving to directly reduce unfair sentences for nonviolent defendants by broadening clemency criteria.

The goal is to correct widespread sentence disparities which have escalated with the implementation of harsh Federal Sentencing Guidelines that gave federal judges little discretion in federal sentencing. In fact for a number of years it has been federal prosecutors rather than federal judges who made the most important sentencing decisions. And with the Justice Department decision to broaden clemency criteria it’s ever more clear that punishment in America is dominated not by judges but by prosecutors. Criminal defense lawyers could do little but force cases to trial or search for the best sentencing alternatives by persuading prosecutors that the case was weak.

Some federal judges even noted in opinions apparently not co-written by prosecutors that they had become little more than adding machines totally calculations for the sentencing guidelines without any real human input. In many cases wary federal judges have been unwilling to give lower sentences especially in jurisdictions such as the Middle District of Florida, where there existed the threat of successful appeal of the sentence by prosecutors. Even good judges found themselves hemmed in between harsh sentencing guidelines, minimum mandatory sentences and overzealous prosecutors. 

Clearly this is an important step toward fairer sentencing by the justice department. And at least this gives every sitting president the ability to right the wrongs of sentences that are unfair by granting clemency to clear up past unfair sentencing for those in prison awaiting American justice. One example of unfair sentence due to sentencing disparity given in the attorney general’s statement on clemency is crack cocaine. At one point those caught with crack cocaine were routinely sentenced to 100 times as much prison time as those prosecuted and punished for other forms of cocaine, which the Supreme Court reduced it to 18 to one. Yet even at 18 to one, many of those people convicted of this nonviolent drug possession charge still remain in prison. But what we really need is fair sentencing. 

And the only way to gain fair sentencing is to change the entire criminal justice system. We need judges who are brave, articulate and compassionate, who understand what serving time in jail really means and who are willing to do what is right no matter what the public consequences. We need new laws that give the power of sentencing to judges not prosecutors. We need overzealous prosecutors to understand that their first duty is to implement justice. And we need federal criminal defense lawyers who never give up, who never stop fighting for their clients to find the best possible sentencing outcomes.

CRACK BANK ROBBER DIALS 911 RECEIVING A QUICK SAVINGS ACCOUNT FROM TAMPA BAY DETECTIVES

With two successful unsolved Bank Robberies under his belt, planning the third proved too much for a robber even as he was casing a Wells Fargo Bank in St. Petersburg, Florida. He was very stressed and tired, so he did what any good citizen would do – he called a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer to confess, no this story does not end so happily – no, he dialed 911 according to press reports

addiction to crack may be an argument for mitigation of a drug sentence but not a robbery
Adrian Brouwer, Fumatore, 1635

The robber told stunned dispatchers that he wanted to go back to rehab as he’d fallen off the wagon, the fall apparently directly striking his head. The police obliged in their gentle way by sending him directly to jail where he could have made use of some of that bank money to make a $100,000 bond. St. Petersburg Police Department Detectives charged him with two counts of Robbery with a Deadly Weapon, noting that he not only confessed to the bank robberies, but is addicted to crack cocaine. 
Will the fact that the confessed robber turned himself in by dialing 911 with an argument that he was addicted to drugs at the time of the robberies help in mitigating his sentence? Not much. Florida sentences are determined mathematically by Florida Guidelines and Scoresheets which apply unless trumped by a Florida minimum mandatory sentence. Aggravating his potential sentence is that the robberies were charged as being armed, which if true would likely trigger Florida’s minimum mandatory sentence for firearm possession during a crime. Also, the press notes that he has prior robberies which would ratchet up the Florida Sentencing Guidelines to a level even beyond the minimum mandatory sentence. Tampa Bay’s finest Clearwater Criminal Attorneys, deluded as we are, could argue that the 911 call and the crack cocaine addiction present the Judge with an opportunity to go to the lower end of the guidelines, but even the lower end of the Florida Sentencing Guidelines if calculated were less than the minimum mandatory sentence, a Pinellas Judge will likely look for a very hefty sentence for a violent offense

CRIME RATE DECLINES WHILE ARRESTS RISE IN TAMPA BAY

The paper reports this morning that crime rates in Tampa Florida as in most of the rest of the nation drifted lower this year, something of a surprise to every Clearwater Criminal Attorneys as the number of Floridians who are incarcerated continues to rise. I’ll stop for a moment for any criminal defense attorneys, fond colleagues and friends, to wipe their eyes before they try to finish reading this sentence. There, there brighten up! It’s all in what you define as “serious crime.”

Governor Bush suggests that it was his policies of more jail cells and long term sentences that are the immediate cause of the fall of serious crime. But new studies show the truth that Florida’s prison and criminal justice system has failed to deter crime despite the use of cocaine going down in Florida as unlawful prescription fraud drug use rises, because Florida fails to do anything effective as Europe has with drug decriminalization
And it is true that his effective leadership included the appointmant of the man who for years ran the brutal Florida prison system and who now faces Federal prison himself having just pled guilty to bribery in Federal Court. One might think that the Governor is correct, that it was his policies that forced down serious crime, if his policies in Florida might somehow have contributed to the fall in serious crime in places as far flung as New York City and San Francisco.

Yet our smiling Governor fails to note that “serious crime” is defined as violent crime and does not encompass the escalation of other very destructive crimes such as Identity Theft. Identity Theft is especially pernicious, bringing financial havoc and disorder while ruining the lives of those it touches.

Clearly the rate of serious crime falling in the United States is due to an aging population and a reasonably good economy. But it may also have something to do with the drug culture that has gone from crack cocaine and the robberies and burglaries that sustained cocaine use to the much more deliberative crimes caused by crystal methamphetamine users who often turn to nonviolent crimes such as Identity Theft, which has been defined as not serious by our government. Every crime is serious to the the family of those charged, if you’ve been charged with a serious crime call a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer to help defend you.