Articles Posted in safety valve

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So called “mandatory minimum” sentences for numerous Federal crimes were established a generation ago by the United States Congress. From a policy and financial standpoint, many people have come to the conclusion that the societal benefits are now substantially outweighed by the human costs and the costs purely in terms of dollars. This point of view is shared by many (though certainly not all) in Congress across all political stripes. This topic is starting to generate bipartisan Congressional support among some Senators and Representative of both parties. In fact, legislation was proposed in the Senate known as the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015. Among other items, this proposed law would reduce and/or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences and expand the “safety valve” eligibility. The bill has not been passed, though it may move to the Senate floor for consideration this year.

What is interesting to me about the bill is that it is sponsored by such a politically diverse group of Senators. The bill has found support form a large number of former federal prosecutors and senior Government officials including two former FBI Directors and a U.S. Attorney General.

The proposed changes to the mandatory minimum are fully supported by the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections. The Colson task force describes itself as a:

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972 369 0577

Derk Wadas

The  Federal Drug Conspiracy laws establish a so called “mandatory minimum” of a certain number of years in prison upon conviction and sentencing. depending upon the amount of drugs involved.  For example, 5-40 years in prison with a minimum of five or 10 years to Life in prison   Essentially, it means that if one is convicted of a dug conspiracy, one is required to serve the mandatory minimum without regard to applicable sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Is the mandatory minimum really “mandatory.”  For many, the answer is clearly, no.  There are several mechanisms built into the law that allow people to avoid, in some cases, the mandatory minimum requirements.

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Sentencing in federal criminal case is largely a product of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual.  For those that may not know, the Guidelines were established by Congress in the 1980s in an effort to bring uniformity and consistency to federal criminal cases.  The Guidelines established, among other things,  mandatory minimum sentences for many drug conspiracy cases.

In 1994, Congress passed the “Safety Valve” statute, 18 U.S.C section 3553(f)The safety valve provision of Title 18 authorizes Courts to impose sentences below the statutory minimum if the defendant meets certain requirements in cases under section 21 USC 841, 844, 846, 960 or 963.

(1) the defendant does not have more than 1 criminal history point, as determined under the sentencing guidelines;