Attorney General Jeff Session has proposed stricter sentences for a wide range of crimes. It’s a call that has attracted criticism from his predecessor.
A report on CNN noted Sessions has issued a new directive for federal prosecutors across the country to charge offenders with the most serious offense that can be proved.
The announcement in May was the latest in a series of major departures from Obama-era policies at the Department of Justice.
Sessions described charging and sentencing recommendations as a bedrock responsibility of any prosecutor and he said they should be allowed to exercise good judgment rather than having their hands tied by Washington D.C.
In a memo issued on May 10, Sessions outlined new instructions for charging decisions in federal cases. He said the first and underlying principle is that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious offense that’s readily provable.
He said the most serious offenses carry the most substantial guidelines sentences including mandatory minimum sentences.
Longtime Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder blasted Sessions' "unwise and ill-informed" move, claiming the decision would "take this nation back."
Although federal sentencing guidelines are advisory and take into account a wide range of factors from a defendant's criminal history to his or her level of cooperation with authorities, some judges have felt handcuffed by mandatory minimums which give a statutory sentencing minimum of months below which a judge cannot depart from.
Sessions withdrew a portion of former Attorney General Eric Holder's "Smart on Crime" initiative.
The Obama-era policy targeted the most serious crimes and cut down on the number of defendants charged with non-violent drug offenses that would otherwise have triggered mandatory minimum sentences.
Holder was scathing in his condemnation of the Sessions announcement.
He said the policy was not tough on crime but dumb on crime. He added:
“It is an ideologically motivated, cookie-cutter approach that has only been proven to generate unfairly long sentences that are often applied indiscriminately and do little to achieve long-term public safety.”
If you are charged with a federal crime, you are likely to be facing a stiff sentence from the outset. Following Sessions’ announcement, it can only get more Draconian. Even possession of drugs is likely to carry a severe sentence.
Call our Chicago criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation at (312) 229-0008.