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President Obama commutes Florida woman's sentence


Just over a year ago a post in this blog discussed the mounting criticism of mandatory sentencing policies in drug cases. The post talked about the controversy over harsh sentences for nonviolent offenders, and focused on the story of one Florida woman who was sentenced in 1997, at the age of 27, to life in prison without parole for allegedly being peripherally involved in her ex-boyfriends' drug dealing.

Recently the woman was among eight federal inmates whose sentences were commuted, or shortened, by President Obama. She is now due to be released in early 2014, after spending 16 years in prison. The commutations are part of the President's policy of pushing for more sensible sentences in nonviolent drug cases.

Despite the recent move toward more lenient sentences, those who face drug charges in Florida still face serious consequences if convicted. Particularly in cases of drug trafficking, prison time is still a very real possibility for those convicted. Fortunately, with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney it is possible in many cases to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

In many drug cases defense counsel can argue for the suppression of evidence due to an unconstitutional search and seizure. In other cases it is possible to create reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused, based on inconsistencies in the prosecution's evidence. Prosecution witnesses can be discredited, especially if they are paid informants or are testifying to get a reduction of charges against themselves. In cases where the evidence appears strong, defense counsel in a drug case can often still negotiate with the prosecution to get the defendant into a drug diversion program instead of prison.

Source: New York Times, "Obama Commutes Sentences for 8 in Crack Cocaine Cases," Charlie Savage, Dec. 19, 2013

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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