Philadelphia Criminal Law News

New Guidelines In Crack-Cocaine Sentences Impact Philadelphia

According to the Philadelphia Daily News, changes to the sentencing guidelines for defendants who have been convicted in crack-cocaine cases have been approved by a federal panel. These changes have a greater impact in Philadelphia since 32 percent of defendants have been charged with crack offenses compared to 22 percent of defendants nationwide.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission passed a provisional emergency amendment to sentencing guidelines in response to the new law known as the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. It was signed by President Obama and changed the quantities of crack required for a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five and ten years. The amount of crack needed to sentence a defendant for five years was changed from five grams to 28 grams, while a ten year sentence requires 280 grams instead of 50 grams.

The new law makes the federal criminal-justice system "more fair," according to The Department of Justice. Before, those caught with five grams of crack received a fixed sentence of five years in prison. Five grams of crack has nearly the same weight as two cubes of sugar. With powder cocaine, it would take 500 grams to get the same sentence.

The average sentence for a crack conviction was ten years, while a powder conviction entailed seven years behind bars. Under the new law, the commission estimates that the new average sentence for trafficking crack will be 101 months, which is 14 percent reduction in the average length of a sentence. A Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can provide a more in-depth explanation on the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

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