For years now, many lawmakers have agreed that the United States criminal justice system has needed major reforms. Many bills intended to address this issue have been introduced in the past few years, but most have fallen on deaf ears in Congress and have not made their way to the President’s desk. This all changed in December 2018 when President Trump signed the FIRST STEP Act into law. The FIRST STEP Act is one of the first major changes to sentencing for federal drug crimes and is intended to help reduce the prison population. It will also help those who are newly convicted with drug crimes.
Reforms Made By the FIRST STEP Act
The FIRST STEP Act pushes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to assess the risks and needs for every offender when they are sentenced. Then, the BOP will attempt to reduce the rate of reoffending through individualized and evidence-based plans, which will be offered to all inmates. Programs that could be a part of these plans may include substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, job training, educational support, and even faith-based initiatives.
Another reform made by the Act is intended to help inmates transition back into their communities. The Act allows inmates to serve a portion of the end of their imprisonment in a halfway house or in-home confinement. This allows inmates to successfully transition back into normal life and lowers their chances of reoffending. The BOP will perform the risks and needs assessment more frequently during this time to make sure the services the inmate needs are there.
The Drug Sentencing “Safety Valve”
Under federal law, there are certain minimum prison sentences for federal crimes. This includes mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges, even though many federal drug offenders commit low-level and nonviolent drug offenses. One exception to the minimum sentencing rules is the “safety valve,” which applies to offenders of certain federal drug crimes.
As long as offenders qualify for the “safety valve,” judges do not have to follow minimum sentencing guidelines. The offender must meet five criteria in order to qualify for the “safety valve.” To qualify, the offender:
- Must not have more than four criminal history points, not including criminal history points that resulted from a one-point offense;
- Must not have a prior three-point offense or a prior two-point violent offense;
- Must not have used violence or credible threats of violence or possess a weapon in connection with the offense;
- Must have committed an offense that did not involve death or serious bodily injury to another person;
- Must not have been an organizer, leader, or supervisor of others in the offense; and
- Must truthfully provide any and all information and evidence concerning the offense before the sentencing hearing.
A Connecticut Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Can Help
Being charged with a drug crime is a big deal, especially when it is a federal drug crime. Though the FIRST STEP Act has allowed for some major reforms in drug sentencing, you can still face rather serious and harsh consequences when charged with drug crimes. If you are facing drug-related charges, you should immediately contact a skilled Hartford, CT drug crimes defense lawyer. At the Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we have over 20 years of experience helping clients fight against federal criminal charges. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 860-290-8690.