Attorney General instructs prosecutors to seek longer sentences

People convicted of federal crimes can expect longer sentences than they may have gotten even six months ago. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called on federal prosecutors to "charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense" in the cases they handle.

Sessions' May 10 memo to prosecutors rolled back the policy under President Obama's two Attorneys General, Eric Holder and later Loretta Lynch. They gave prosecutors the right to determine the appropriate charge for a particular crime, even if it carried a mandatory minimum sentence.

Under Sessions, however, if prosecutors seek a charge of less than the standard one, they must document their reasons and have that sentence approved by an Assistant Attorney General or U.S. Attorney. Under the Obama administration, only a supervisory attorney had to approve the deviation.

In the years prior to becoming Attorney General, Sessions spoke out on his objections to eliminating or even reducing mandatory minimum sentences because he believed they were a deterrent to crime. Holder held a much different view. He believed that the certainty of punishment would incentivize cooperation with law enforcement more than the potential for a long sentence.

While Sessions' memo didn't specifically address drug crimes, he has a reputation for being tough on drug users. He once said, "Good people don't smoke marijuana."

Under Obama, the DOJ made an effort to reduce the number of non-violent drug offenders in federal prisons. The day before he left office, Obama commuted the sentences of over 300 such prisoners.

Now, more than ever, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance if you are facing drug charges or any other federal charges since prosecutors will no longer have the leeway they once had in accepting plea deals and seeking sentences.

Source: Huffington Post, "Jeff Sessions Rolls Back Obama-Era Drug Sentencing Reforms," Ryan J. Reilly, May 12, 2017