Not Guilt nor Innocence But Getting the Best Possible Results

What can someone do to find the best results in a criminal case in Florida if there’s overwhelming evidence of guilt? In one way or another I’m often asked this question by someone charged with a crime. Yet the corollary question from folks not facing criminal charges is something like this – how can you represent someone who is guilty or how can you represent someone when you know there’s ample evidence of guilt?

Sign: For the Best results don't do anything stupid

Each question goes to the heart of being a criminal defense lawyer in Clearwater. Our criminal justice system is based on English common law in which defense counsel has an ethical duty to zealously fight for his client. The guilt or innocence of my client does not drive my obligation, rather it’s finding the best result.  When lawyers fail to give the best defense possible in every case, they fail not only their clients, they cheat justice. For justice to succeed the judge and prosecutor’s expectation from the defense should be nothing less than the forceful presentation of every fact in mitigation linked with every scenario of possible innocences.

The goal I set out for myself in every criminal case I agree to handle is to find the best possible results. Otherwise I make no promises. Achieving those results requires more than knowledge of the facts and law, it means pestering the very hell out of prosecutors and judges until they’re sick of hearing from me. And it means hard work, dedication and preparation not only from me but from my client. Clearly, that’s what good defense lawyers and their clients should be doing in every criminal case to obtain the best results – results that are worthy of our hard work

If the best results will be found by going to trial, then let’s pick the jury. If the evidence makes going to trial a foolish exercise in futility, then let’s persuade the prosecutor to be reasonable by reducing the charged offense or getting an offer that won’t ruin my client’s life. If the prosecutor has tunnel vision and won’t be reasonable, then let’s go to the judge. There’s never one immediate answer as every criminal case is different. But the goal is always the same – find the best results.

So how can I represent someone that I know is guilty? I’m not the prosecutor, nor am I the judge. It’s the prosecutor’s duty to pursue guilt, to build the case, demonstrate the evidence and win a conviction. It’s the judge’s duty to sit in solemn judgement by finding a fair sentence if guilt is established. And it’s the juror’s duty in deliberations to make a choice of guilt or not guilty based only on the evidence presented without bias, prejudice or hatred.

In years of practicing law I’ve seen prosecutors, judges and jurors make the foolish mistake of abandoning their true responsibilities. But it doesn’t matter, because I know my responsibility is to my client finding a way – no, finding every way – to get the best possible result.

New Federal Criminal Investigation & Arrest Goals In Florida

A few days ago Lee Bentley, the acting chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Florida, gave a remarkable speech outlining the goals, aspirations, new developments and criminal investigation commitments for his federal prosecutors over the next few years. This is important information for every criminal lawyer and especially for their clients who may be facing federal charges, federal investigations or federal grand jury indictments in the Middle District of Florida an area which encompasses such cities as Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Dunedin, Safety Harbor and Pinellas Park even though the federal courthouse is located in Tampa.

Seeking Justice from Federal Prosecutors

Seeking Justice from Federal Prosecutors

Although federal indictments may be thought to originate from federal grand jurors who meet on Tuesdays at the federal courthouse in Tampa to examine evidence and testimony of possible federal unlawful conduct, never forget that any possible charges always originate not with a federal grand jury but with the federal prosecutors and federal agents who actually have responsibility to present the cases. It is the federal prosecutors who determine when or if cases move forward and whether those cases will lead to a federal indictment. It’s often been said that a federal prosecutor could indict a ham sandwich if so desired, but that’s not true in Tampa. It’s much more likely to be a fresh toasty hot cuban sandwich they’d enjoy indicting.

So how did I find out about the chief prosecutor’s speech? My contact, let’s face it, my mole within the prosecutor’s office is a gaunt, pale, exhausted intellectual fugitive of his own Justice Department who hates his disheveled little office with it’s old pentium Gateway, yet despises going into federal court where things can get ugly fast even more. He asked that I neither give him up as the source for this post, nor to divulge my means of payment for this exclusive information. So I’ll only suggest that the evidence was eaten and therefor stands free from threat of future federal indictment.

The following is the gist of the priorities for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Middle District of Florida:

1. Simple drug cases will be handled by state rather than federal prosecutors. This makes since as all too often the federal drug sentencing guidelines result in an unfairly harsh sentence. Further, at least the State of Florida is using drug court as a solution to free people from addiction while not branding them for life as criminals. In Pinellas County the drug court judge does her best to make sure people make it thru the program rather than being sent to prison.
2. Major Drug Trafficking cases such as the Panama Express cases from the coast guard will still be handled by federal prosecutors. The federal prosecutors, DEA agents and FBI agents have the means to successfully prosecute these major complex drug conspiracy cases that would present difficulties to state prosecutors.
3. More financial fraud cases not involving mortgage fraud will be handled by federal investigators and funneled into the purview of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Clearly fraud cases involving sums of loss over a million dollars will be a specific target for federal agents and prosecutors to justify their increase in funding even as the Federal Public Defender’s Office is cut.
4. More medical fraud such as medicare and medicaid fraud will be investigated by federal agents and taken to the federal grand jury in Tampa. A recent report established significant government monetary losses due to doctors allegedly over-billing the government and insurance companies. Many otherwise law abiding doctors, administrators of medical offices and their staffs will now be exposed to federal criminal indictments, search warrants, investigations and arrests. Further, they will be pushed to the wall to quickly plead guilty and co-operate against co-defendants or find themselves charged with additional federal criminal charges such as conspiracy, mail fraud, scheme to defraud, grand theft and giving false information to a government agent.
5. Seventeen new assistant United State’s Attorneys have been hired, eight of whom will be working exclusively on new federal criminal cases while two will be working on criminal appeals.

Although it wasn’t mentioned in the speech, it’s also known that federal Firearm indictments are being ramped up.

Over the next two years the recalibration of the objectives of the U.S. Attorney’s office will result in more federal criminal investigations, federal grand jury indictments and federal arrests in the Tampa Bay area. In many of these cases there will be little if any indication that you or someone you care about is under federal investigation. In some cases the federal prosecutor may send what is known as a Target Letter, which lets someone know that he or she is the target of an investigation. Either way it’s always important to find a federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to make sure you obtain the best possible results.

Florida Supreme Court Stops Unlawful Police GPS Cellphone Tracking

The Florida Supreme Court stood up for the constitutional rights of every Floridian by finally stopping unlawful police use of a suspect’s cell phone tracking capability. New technology allows our government to track our location without our knowledge.

Now Cary Grant can use a phone again.

Now Cary Grant can use a phone again.

Here are some of the significant facts of the case. Florida police got a tip that the defendant was moving large quantities of drugs around Florida. Based on the tip and little other information detectives persuaded a judge to give them a warrant (known as a PIN warrant) to have access to all phone calls made to and from the defendant’s cell phone.

But the police went far beyond the warrant by making use of the cellphone to access the defendant’s constant movements using his cellphone as a real time GPS tracking device. No reasonable person could believe that the government would be intruding on privacy in such a way, yet in Florida law enforcement often goes far beyond what is reasonable. In the Tampa Bay area police have even gone to the extreme of setting up secret videos to swipe tag number information near legitimate hydroponic stores and police officers committing crimes such as armed trespass to gain information or officers lying about smelling marijuana to gain entry into homes without first persuading a fair-minded judge of the necessity of a valid search warrant.

Underlying the court’s decision is the notion that it’s unreasonable to expect Floridians to have to turn off their cell phones or to wrap their cellphones in aluminum foil in order to be certain that their real time locations are not being monitored by law enforcement. After all, each of us should be able to maintain some expectation of privacy. The Court threw out the large brick of cocaine that was unlawfully seized as evidence.

In the future warrantless GPS tracking in Florida will lead to evidence being thrown out by Florida Courts. Will officer’s abide by the new cell phone requirements? It’s not inconceivable that some law enforcement officers will gather inappropriate tracking information anyway and then try to justify arrests based on other information that was not actually useful in making the arrests. Courts will need to deal harshly with these officers. As citizens we must demand that officers follow the law or find some other way to make a living.

When there are cases where the government needs tracking information about a person’s location in real time, for example in preventing a terrorist attack, then the government will need to submit the need to a judge. The judge will require more than just a mere tip. The judge will want specific reasons why law enforcement believes the suspect is breaking or about to break the law. Persuading a judge that GPS tracking should be allowed should be a difficult burden if we are to live as free citizens in the future.

Remember that the criminal law in Florida is constantly changing. In Florida these issues of when a search warrant is required have been bubbling up for the past few years with appeals courts often in disagreement. It’s important in every Clearwater criminal case involving a search, a stop, an arrest warrant or a search warrant to have a criminal defense lawyer examine the facts as well as the prevailing Florida criminal law to make certain that your rights have not been violated.

Why Hope and Courage Create Better Outcomes in Florida Criminal Cases

The most important factor in the resolution of any criminal case is not the lawyer, the judge nor the prosecutor. Though many lawyers driven by oversized egos would have you believe otherwise. They’d have you think it’s their ability alone that directs a case.  Yet as often as not the facts of the case and the applicable law direct their counsel to clients.

Courage & Hope to never give up.

Courage & Hope to never give up.

Many prosecutors walk into court detemined that their veiew of guilt will prevail in the end. Certainly under harsh sentencing guidelines, Florida prosecutors with some justification often believe they harness decisive power.

Still no matter what prosecutors or defense lawyers say or do, it’s only the sentencing judge who has the final say in every Florida criminal case. Even when the solemn jury finds a verdict of not guilty, the verdict itself is without merit nor meaning until the judge ratifies, approves and finally publishes the jurors’ action by lifting the veil of possible guilt in officially setting the defendant free on the record in open court as by example under common law since time memorial. Yet the judge with power over the lives of so many people still is bound by the law, by the appeals process and by Florida sentencing guidelines.

So if the defense lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge have limited roles in sentencing outcomes, who is it then who has control of the destiny of each defendant? After thirty years of practicing criminal law as a criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County, Florida I have no doubt as to where the real power for the best possible outcome in every criminal case resides. It comes from within the heart of the accused. Does the accused have the courage and hope to successfully climb the mountain of adversity to reach the summit of the best possible results?  Or will the accused simply give up, the long, steep climb never attempted?

Sometimes the necessary hope and courage comes from religious faith, often it comes from the way these folks who aren’t easily intimidated face life. I’m not suggesting that facing an arrest or an indictment is ever easy. Nor should one sleep walk thru the criminal justice system. But to face a criminal case with success you better be strong, smart and savvy.

When I take on a new client I’m looking for attributes that will make a successful resoltuion of the case more likely. Is my client capable and willing to summon every bit of inner strength to gut it out, to focus on the case from a position of strength not weakness and to do every thing possible to move forward?

Often even as early as at the first meeting I have an idea of what the final resolution of the case is apt to be not merely because of the applicable criminal statutes and the pertinent facts of a case, but by the scope of hope and courage displayed. Anyone confronting the American criminal justice system must reach deep within finding the hope and courage to find justice. I can’t promise you that it will be easy. In fact it will be a long difficult journey. But if you undertake this task, by the end of it you’ll not only find the you’ve achieved the best result but that you’re also a braver, stronger, better person. If you can find that courage to move forward with hope, I’m prepared to help you make your successful journey.

Is it Better to Plead Guilty or Have a Trial After a Federal Grand Jury Indictment?

Federal court is an intimidating place for any defendant and even quite a few lawyers. One reason is that federal district judges are appointed for life so there’s little to keep them from saying or doing what they please in open court. However, federal judges have surprisingly limited discretion when it comes to the most important aspect of their jobs – criminal sentencing.

If you're a target, act fast.

If you’re a target, act fast.

Federal sentencing is fundamentally based on very strict federal sentencing guidelines. In the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, federal judges may sentence under the minimum mandatory range if and only if a permissible reason can be found within the framework of the federal sentencing guidelines. Too often prosecutors determine the sentencing outcome in federal cases during the grand jury indictment stage of the process.

This means that in the Middle District of Florida defense counsel should be hired as soon as a federal defendant receives a target letter from the federal prosecutor. A target letter is not a requirement for a federal indictment and in most federal cases a target letter is not even sent. A target letter gives written notice that the federal government not only intends to soon take the case to a federal grand jury but strongly believes that the grand jury will indict based on the evidence available.

Target letters are typically sent in complex nonviolent federal criminal cases such as conspiracy to commit fraud, theft or scheme to defraud where the investigation may have been going on for many months or years. In these cases there may be incentive for prosecutors to give notice of future indictments in hopes of securing early pleas of guilty for low level defendants in an effort to secure convictions for those higher in the chain of command and knowledge within the conspiracy.

At the end of federal cases it’s always interesting to see which defendants received the longest prison terms and who got the best results. It’s a testament to the unfairness of the criminal justice system that it’s not unusual for some of the higher level conspirators who gained the most from the fraud to serve the least time. How can this be? Because their criminal defense lawyer understood the actual risks, knew what to do and when to do it; whereas other defendants simply failed to make the right decisions at the right time. It’s not just knowing how to win at federal trial that best serves a federal defendant; it’s also knowing when to fold and how to do it in such a way as to get the best possible result.

 

Clearly, it’s vital to find a knowledgeable lawyer. Your lawyer will weigh the facts against the federal law to help you make a determination as to whether it is better to fight the charges with the risk of indictment for more significant crimes or to work with the federal prosecutors to forestall the indictment by pleading to a lesser federal crime. The Florida federal defense lawyer you choose should have ample experience with multiple federal criminal trials as well as an understanding of the federal sentencing guidelines. If you or someone you care about has received a target letter from the federal prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office, call Robert Hambrick today and he’ll help you make some of the most important decisions of your life.

 

 

 

 

How Can A Florida Felony Charge Be Reduced To A Misdemeanor?

Any criminal charge needs to be aggressively handled especially when you’ve been charged or arrested on a felony in Florida. A felony charge by definition means that if you’re convicted you may be sent to prison or receive probation for at least five or more years. For many felonies the mere arrest or accusation could result in loss of a job, loss of reputation and being shunned within your community.

Change the Felony to a Misdemeanor

Change the Felony to a Misdemeanor

It’s important to minimize the chances of the charge ruining your life by making sure you hire an effective criminal defense lawyer who will energetically handle your case. An effective defense to any felony charge begins with finding every weakness in the prosecutor’s case and bringing those weaknesses to the attention of prosecutors.

In Clearwater, Florida Pinellas prosecutors may be willing to adjust the charged offense down to a misdemeanor if certain conditions are met that undermine an effective felony charge. One way to do this if for your defense lawyer to persuade prosecutors can be shown that the felony charge over-represents the alleged misconduct. For example, in an aggravated battery case prosecutors may be willing to reduce a felony aggravated battery charge to a misdemeanor simple battery if it can be established thru medical evidence that the victim’s injury was not as serious as the arresting officers initially believed.

Another way to have your felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor is making effective arguments against the nature of the charge itself by making the credibility of witnesses an issue in the case. The weaker the initial felony charge becomes, the more untenable it will be for prosecutor’s to defend the initial charge and arrest made be the police. It can be very effective to place the prosecution in the position of having to defend an unreasonable arrest.

When it can be established that the arrest itself was questionable, then all of the underlying assumptions about the case may also be questioned by prosecutors. This self doubt within the law enforcement framework is important leverage that may be used to further undermine the entire arrest.

If no criminal conduct can be proven then the case may be no filed by the prosecutor. But in most cases where there has been a felony arrest the state attorney’s office will be disinclined to no file if there is any evidence at all of criminal intent – even if that evidence is not entirely coherent or consistent. In these cases neither side may want to risk a criminal trial so the possibility of a reduction of the felony charge to a misdemeanor charge becomes more likely.

 

Part of being a strong advocate for a client is knowing which levers to pull in order to get the best possible results. If you have been charged or arrested with a felony in Tampa Bay, Florida then it’s essential to call defense lawyer Robert Hambrick as soon as possible so you have an energetic lawyer on your side capable of persuading prosecutors at the state attorney’s office to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor.

 

Five Things To Do If An Arrest Warrant Has Been Issued For You In Florida

It’s surprising to see how many calls I receive from all over the country from good people who visit Florida only to find after they’ve left that they now face criminal charges from their stay in Florida. What actions should someone immediately take to safeguard his reputation, his job and his family once he knows that Florida has issued a warrant for his arrest?

Florida Cop Chokes

Florida Cop Choking Arrested Man

Because an arrest warrant, even one that is many years old, gives any and every officer the right to make an arrest, it’s important to take immediate action to have the warrant discharged. For example, someone who is charged with a crime in Clearwater, Florida could find himself arrested while stopped for speeding in another state. If the underlying charge from the arrest warrant is a felony then you may have to wait weeks in jail in the state where you were apprehended while Florida decides whether or not to spend the money to extradite you. Therefore, it’s much smarter and more convenient to choose the soonest opportunity to address the underlying warrant on your own time and at your own choosing.

Here are five ways to make certain that a Florida warrant won’t ruin your life.

1. Check the county clerk’s office web page and the Sheriff’s web page in the county where you believe a warrant may exist. In Pinellas County each of these web pages will describe the underlying crime for which the warrant was issued as well as personal information of the wanted person.

2. Check the FDLE web page for warrant information. FDLE is Florida’s statewide crime fighters with jurisdiction covering all of Florida. Though county warrant information tends to be fresher eventually every warrant issued in Florida will make it to the FDLE web page.

3. Find the following facts: which police agency issued the warrant, the age of the warrant, how your name is listed in the warrant and the warrant number.

4. Obtain the actual warrant. This may be difficult as older warrants in Pinellas County and all over Florida will be on microfilm with the original paper copy destroyed. To obtain the warrant contact the clerk’s office, pay the appropriate fee and have it mailed or faxed to you.

5. Use the facts to ascertain whether you have any valid defenses. For example, if an arrest warrant from Florida suggests that you wrote a worthless check to a store two months after you left the state of Florida, then you may have a valid defense that someone else wrote the check in your name. Another example of likely possible defense gleaned from an arrest warrant would be finding that the personal information, such as age, date of birth or race in the warrant does not match your personal information.

Clearly, you’re going to need to hire a Clearwater criminal defense lawyer to help you with the most challenging aspect of resolving a pending Florida warrant, which is finding a way to turn yourself in  on the warrant without spending weeks in jail waiting for your case to be called by a judge. It’s possible to walk thru the jail system with the bond amount ready or to turn yourself into the judge at a prearranged bond hearing or in very rare cases even persuade the prosecutors to withdraw the arrest warrant.

How Prosecutors Use & Abuse Federal Prisoners’ Emails To Defense Lawyers

The New York Times recently reported that federal prosecutors are using federal inmate emails sent to their defense lawyers as evidence of wrongdoing.200px-Musée_des_arts_et_métiers_-_Corona_typewriter

The evidence is being used as additional leverage to force pleas of guilty for those not yet convicted and during sentencing hearings for those already convicted. Although many jurisdictions are divided as to whether this evidence is permissible some federal judges are accepting the notion that defendants in custody waive any rights to private correspondence with their defense lawyers thru email.

In the Middle District of Florida in Tampa most federal prisoners are placed in the Pinellas County Jail in Clearwater while awaiting trial. But if convicted the defendants are hastily sent to Citrus County to await sentencing. Neither the Pinellas nor the Citrus jail offers email for defendants.

Once federal defendants are transferred to a federal facility under Bureau of Prison guidelines then email is provided. Many defendants may be under the false impression that their email to their defense counsel is protected under attorney-client privilege.

All telephone calls to and from prisoners in Florida prisons are recorded. All traditional mail to and from prisoners is opened not only to stop contraband from entering the jail, but in an effort to make certain that the mail is not used to further any criminal conspiracy or enterprise. Telephone calls and traditional mail are often used as evidence in federal and Florida courts against prisoners.

So how does a defense lawyer conduct a defense if his client in incarcerated in Florida? It doesn’t matter whether the client facing a life sentence is charged with a federal conspiracy to traffic in cocaine with 10,000 pages of evidence or if the client is facing a simple battery misdemeanor charge with two pages of evidence. The evidence will be discussed in the following manner:

Upon entry to the Pinellas County Jail your defense attorney is given access to a small, gray, grim room which is presumably free from eavesdropping or other intrusion. The lawyer and his client work from two metal chairs and an old folding game table. Alleged first degree Murder charge? Game table. This face to face meeting place is the only method of safe communication provided for any alleged offense in Pinellas County.

Yet much of the correspondence and communication in America today is conducted via email. All prisoners in both federal and Florida prisons should be given unrestricted email access if not to their families and loved ones, at least to their defense lawyers. It would even free up the wait time for the meeting rooms which are often filled.

The most important aspect of the lawyer-client privilege is the ability to communicate. Without a free exchange of ideas between defense counsel and client the lawyer-client privilege is meaningless. Lawyers for prisoners should be able to routinely send and receive emails from those they represent without fear that the emails may compromise clients in the future.

What Is The Likely Sentence That Will Be Imposed By A Judge For A Florida Drug Arrest?

I’m often asked about the likely sentence someone could receive for various drug offenses in Florida. Many factors dictate how much discretion a judge may have in providing a sentence that does not punish too harshly.

Marijuana, hash, meth, cocaine, oxycodone pills are all sentenced harshly under Florida's strict drug laws in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida.

Here are the five most important factors which will be taken into account by the sentencing judge in the first assigned courtroom or if moved to the new Pinellas County Drug Court:

1. The type of drug is an important factor in sentencing. There are many illegal drugs. A drug such as heroin will be more severely punished that a more benign drug such as marijuana or a prescription drug.

2. The amount of drug is a very significant factor in drug sentencing in Florida. A sentence for drugs will be based on the quantity of drugs possessed. Quantity of drugs can be based on the sheer weight of drugs or can be measured by the number of pills possessed by a defendant. If the quantity attributable to a defendant is large enough, then the Florida sentencing guidelines may be trumped by a minimum mandatory sentence which the judge must give under Florida’s harsh drug sentencing laws. For example, only a handful of oxycodone pills will trigger a three year minimum mandatory sentence. Although marijuana is more benign than many other drugs, someone who is raising just a few plants may be charged with having a grow house which would require the judge to give a long sentence of imprisonment.

3. The criminal history of the defendant is always a factor in drug sentencing in Florida courts. Someone with no prior drug arrests may be eligible for treatment rather than face more severe sanctions such as prison. However, the judge must take the Florida guidelines into account when sentencing. This means that someone’s prior record even for non-drug offenses may outweigh the need for treatment forcing the judge to give a severe sentence.

4. If weapons, firearms or guns were found incident to the arrest for drugs, then you’re expectation should be that the prosecutor will ask the judge for a harsher penalty. In Pinellas County, Florida additional charges may be filed or additional time given at the sentencing hearing in your Clearwater courtroom. While in the Federal system in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa the government will ask the judge to give an additional five years on top of whatever the sentence would have been.

5. Finally, if there is an allegation of violence during the use or distribution of drugs in Florida, it’s likely that the sentencing judge will use this as an aggravating factor to give a higher sentence. For example, an arresting officer who claims that he was battered during the course of the investigation will not only file an additional felony charge of Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, but will ask prosecutors to give additional punishment at sentencing.

As you can see there are many variables in any drug charge which may dictate a future sentence. It’s important to have a criminal defense lawyer look at the facts of your case to insure that you receive the lowest possible sentence by making arguments to reduce the quantity, quality and relevance of any drugs that may have been found in your possession.

Nearly 50,000 Current Federal Prisoners Will Have Their Drug Sentences Reduced

Nearly 50,000 federal prisoners will receive a two level drug reduction that on average will result in more than two year reductions of their original sentences.

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The Federal Sentencing Commission unanimously voted to retroactively apply the Attorney General’s recent decision to grant two level drug reductions in federal drug cases to achieve greater fundamental fairness for those already sentenced. Although the Sentencing Commission states that federal judges may apply the new two level lower guideline range in older cases, there is no requirement that federal judges do so. In fact because of the significant number of current federal prisoners who were sentenced under harsh federal guideline ranges, there will likely be a backlog of cases even for those who should be released under the new drug provisions.

Though the Commission states that fairness is the over-riding consideration for the retroactive federal drug sentence reductions, a look at the Commission’s memorandum announcing the decision gives other reasons.

1. The Federal Bureau of Prisons population exceeds capacity by around 32%. Under today’s change addressing this problem, the Commission estimates that 46,290 offenders would be eligible to have their cases reviewed by a judge to determine if their sentences should be reduced;
2. Offenders eligible for a reduction could have their sentences reduced by an average of 25 months, or 18.8%.
3. They would still serve 108 months, on average.
4. Over time, these sentence reductions could result in a savings of up to 79,740 bed years (a bed year is the equivalent of one federal prisoner occupying a prison bed for a year).

What the Commission is really saying is that because the federal prison system is now jammed by nearly a third over its actual capacity due to the harsh federal sentencing guidelines which the Commission created, the Commission now needs to save a few thousand bed years and this seems like a sensible way to do it. It’s not about fair sentencing; it’s about clearing the federal prisons for the next war on American citizens – not one hopes, another futile war on drugs.

For far too long the federal sentencing guidelines have needlessly destroyed the lives of our fellow Americans. It’s good that the sentencing commission as well as politicians from both parties finally agree that federal drug sentences were too harsh for too long.

Yet what does this say about the cowardly federal judges who did not have the courage to sentence federal drug defendants to treatment rather than punishment at the time of the original sentencing hearings? What does this say about the craven federal prosecutors who argued for ever more prison time for nonviolent drug crimes even when it was firmly established that prison would be of no benefit to the defendants nor for society?

More than anything that can be bought or sold, in life what matters most is time. Time to spend in the countess ways that makes each of our lives worth living. And it was time that was stolen from these defendants. How will the lives of those needlessly imprisoned ever be made complete? The least these federal prosecutors and judges can do is to set new sentencing hearings for each of these men with all deliberate speed as if that hearing were for someone they knew from their own neighborhood or from their own family.