Tampa Bay Criminal Attorneys aren’t the only ones who believe federal judges must have more discretion and flexibility in sentencing.
|Soaring Safety Valve|
For many years the Federal Sentencing Guidelines have taken sentencing discretion away from judges while giving prosecutors ever greater control of sentencing by determining how charges are brought before federal grand juries. When a minimum mandatory sentence is called for under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a judge is rarely free to go under the required sentence unless a Defendant has no prior criminal conduct under the Safety Valve provision or a Defendant co-operates thru substantial assistance to such an extent that other co-defendants are arrested at which time a prosecutor may file a motion for downward departure.
The problem with the Safety Valve is that it is applicable only in drug cases. The problem with substantial assistance is that United States prosecutors often fail to file 5K or Rule 35 motions for downward departure even where there has been excellent co-operation. Under the statute the Judge does not have jurisdiction to hear any argument for substantial assistance unless the prosecutors file a motion thus giving the prosecutor more sentencing power than the sitting Federal District Judge appointed for life.
The press release from a Senator sponsoring the bill notes that from 1991 to 2011 the number of minimum mandatory penalties doubled. The Sentencing Guidelines have increased sentencing lengths for other crimes even where minimum mandatory sentencing doesn’t apply. The resulting over-incarceration has been catastrophic for Americans as the current federal prison population of 217,000 is double what it was in the year 2000. The cost in wasted dollars is huge, but the cost in wasted lives is even greater; as the American prison system fails in rehabilitation while only providing ever greater punishments for crime.
The bipartisan Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 would allow federal judges greater use of the Safety Valve provision in a much needed way so that judges will have the discretion to give fair sentences in all federal cases not just drug cases.
An expansion of the Safety Valve provision is beneficial for federal defendants in that fair-minded federal judges will have an opportunity to do what they believe is right under the facts and circumstances of each case listening to arguments of Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyers as well as prosecutors to arrive at the best sentence rather than just the harshest sentence.