Yesterday, President Obama commuted the harsh prison sentences of 46 drug offenders. In a video explaining his decision, he argued that the men and women weren’t hardened criminals and that their punishments didn’t fit the crimes they committed.
This isn’t the first time that the Obama has commuted sentences; in total, he has commuted more sentences than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson, who left office in 1969.
As our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale drug crime defense lawyers know, the right to commute unfair sentences (and/or pardon convicted criminals) is a privilege the president has and one that they often employ.
President Obama’s commutations have been part of a larger effort to reform the flawed criminal justice system. This presidential administration has tried to review as well as alter sentencing laws as well as reduce the punishments prescribed for non-violent crimes (including non-violent drug crimes). As Obama noted in announcing the 46 commutations, this country is one of second chances. Unfortunately, before the commutations, the 46 individuals — many of whom were serving (disproportionate) life sentences — were never given a second chance.
The prison sentences for many of the prisoners who have had their sentences commuted will end in November after officials have had time to make arrangements for the individuals to stay in facilities such as halfway houses which will help reintegrate them into larger society.
Now, as our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale drug crime defense lawyers know, a commutation is quite different from a complete pardon. While a pardon erases a criminal conviction, a commutation just cuts short the sentence. (Obama has granted 64 pardons so far during his presidency).
So while a commutation is life-changing, and while for many it means that they now have the chance to live out the rest of their days with friends and family, as opposed to behind bars, the convicts will still face (perhaps unfair) hardships. With drug convictions on their record, they will have true difficulty finding work, applying to school, being approved for loans, etc., as their convictions will still pop up on background checks (whereas the past records of individuals who have been pardoned will generally not be discoverable by typical background checks).
If you have any questions about the issue of sentence commutations or any other criminal defense issue, or if you have been arrested for or charged with a crime in Palm Beach, Broward and/or Miami-Dade County, please contact our West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale drug crime defense lawyers at Leifert & Leifert for a free consultation by calling 1-888-5-DEFEND (1-888-533-3363). We look forward to assisting you.