Once the frontline in America’s War on Drugs, Florida played host to the battle between major drug trafficking and zealous law enforcement officials who intended to put drug offenders behind bars. With the nation trending toward a rollback of overwhelmingly harsh drug sentencing laws, Florida has now become a leader in the growing belief that these sentences were unjust.
As President Obama prepares to leave office, he has spent a considerable amount of time speaking out against America’s drug crime policy and the need for change. In addition, he has used his executive power to grant clemency to approximately 1,200 convicted felons since 2011, an overwhelming majority of which involve inmates sentenced to lengthy terms in Federal prisons for non-violent offenses involving drugs, including distribution, trafficking, and laundering profits from drug crimes. He has granted clemency to more Federal prisoners than all other Presidents combined, and may grant even more before President Trump is sworn into office on Friday.
Today, Florida now leads the country in the number of inmates who have had their sentences commuted by President Obama – meaning they were given immediate release or substantially shortened sentences. Many of the individuals granted clemency were sentenced to 20 year, 30 year, or even life terms, and likely would have received lighter sentences under the current drug crime policy and laws. This is a far cry from a state where Federal prosecutors vehemently went after drug offenders and pushed for excessive sentences using tactics that capitalized on mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines and limited Judges’ discretion when doling out punishment.
Commutations have been granted to nearly 200 inmates who were prosecuted for federal crimes in the state of Florida, far more than any other state in the country. The make-up of these commutations includes:
- Over 40 commutations in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida. The Southern is ranked sixth nationally in commutations granted.
- 89 commutations in the Middle District of Florida. The Middle District had the most commutations awarded in all 94 federal judicial districts.
- 60 commutations in the Northern Florida District.
For many civil rights activists, legal experts, and others across the country, America’s War on Drugs is largely considered a failure that resulted in an overburdened prison system and unjust sentences. By favoring punishment over rehabilitation, implementing mandatory minimums, and making drug crimes a priority for law enforcement, the American judicial system – and particularly the Federal criminal justice system – has poured incredible resources into locking up drug offenders.
The trend toward sentencing reform has gained widespread support, and for anyone charged with drug crimes in the state of Florida, the new approach toward rehabilitation in lieu of time behind bars can be seen in many courts, including those in Fort Lauderdale. Supporters site that efforts being made are helping close disparity in the communities being targeted, provide a second chance for non-violent offenders, and put the Country on a better path toward justice.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients charged with all types of drug crimes, from possession to serious federal offenses. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug offense in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, or any of the surrounding areas of Florida, our team is available 24/7 to fight for your rights. Contact us today for a FREE consultation.