Florida residents may be interested to learn that the Obama administration has now commuted the sentences of more than 1,000 people imprisoned for nonviolent drug offenses and intends to continue doing so until he leaves office. The commutations, which cannot be undone by the upcoming administration, are not the same as a pardon and do not necessarily result in a release from prison, but they do shorten sentences.
Criminal justice reform has met with roadblocks on Congress, so President Obama has turned to the commutations as one way to mitigate the effects of laws the administration sees as overly harsh. He announced the plan in 2014 and has since been inundated with requests for commutations.
Advocates for criminal justice reform praised the action but said that the president should do more and should act more quickly. As of the end of August, there were 6,000 pending requests for clemency.
Even if people who have been convicted on drug possession or trafficking charges don’t receive a long sentence, it can still have a devastating effect on their lives. It may affect a person’s ability to seek employment and might cut off some career paths altogether. If a person is attending college, a drug conviction could affect financial aid. However, a person who is charged with drug crimes does have options. For example, an attorney might review the case and make sure that the defendant’s constitutional rights were not violated during the search that led to the seizure of the drugs in question. In other cases, such as where it was a first offense, an attorney might seek to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor.