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Criminal justice reform will reduce some excessive punishments

We have not seen much bipartisanship in this year’s Congress, but it has finally reared its head as the end of 2018 is just days away. A bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats that include lawmakers, prosecutors and defense attorneys across the nation are getting closer and closer to passing a criminal justice reform known as the First Step Act.

If signed into law, First Step would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

First Step would give judges more discretion in sentencing, allowing them to diverge from mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for nonviolent drug offenders who have criminal records. The change would mean that about 2,000 offenders per year will in the future get shorter sentences than they would today.

NBC News reports that First Step would also make it more difficult for prosecutors to stack charges against those charged with firearms violations. That would make it harder for prosecutors to pursue 25-year mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders. This change would result in about 60 offenders per year getting shorter, more reasonable sentences for gun violations.

Another important change: First Step would eliminate the possibility that offenders can be sentenced to life without parole for so-called “three strikes” drug offenders. Instead, their mandatory minimum sentences would be capped at 25 years behind bars. The change would affect about 60 offenders per week, according to NBC.

The proposed reform would also retroactively reduce some sentences for people convicted of crack cocaine possession prior to the enactment of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. About 3,000 people current in prison would become eligible for earlier release, with some of them eligible for immediate release.

While this reform, if adopted, will lighten some excessive punishments, there is little doubt that the first line of protection for those accused of crimes is a knowledgeable, skilled criminal defense attorney devoted to protecting rights and freedom.

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