A presidential pardon is an act that is seldom seen in criminal matters. They commonly come as one of the final acts a sitting president takes before leaving office. In the case of eight convicted inmates, the pardons were somewhat unusual in that they were realized in a president’s first year in office.
To be precise, President Obama is technically in his fifth year in office, but he issued pardons to several people serving life sentences in connection with crimes involving crack cocaine. The move is ostensibly another step in the changing views on how drug crimes should be punished by federal courts. In a recent report presented by the HuffingtonPost.com, three current inmates were highlighted. Two of them had spent most of their lives in prison behind convictions that came about when they were in their twenties.
They reportedly turned down plea deals that would have given them the opportunity to be released from prison. Nevertheless, they represent a few of the 3,000 federal inmates serving life sentences for non-violent crimes.
Two years ago, Congress passed a law essentially reducing the sentences for crimes involving crack cocaine. (They were previously ten times as severe compared to similar crimes involving powder cocaine.) Nevertheless, many people previously convicted under the past sentencing guidelines had not realized any relief. It is unclear whether more prisoners will be pardoned, but the story represents an important example of why it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney if one is charged with a drug crime.
Source: HuffingtonPost.com, “Obama commutes sentences of eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses,” Saki Knafo, December 20, 2013