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NCJ Number: 158089 Find in a Library
Title: Discretion Redux: Mandatory Minimums, Federal Judges, and the "Safety Valve" Provision of the 1994 Crime Act
Journal: University of Dayton Law Review  Volume:20  Issue:2  Dated:(Winter 1995)  Pages:765-778
Author(s): F A Bernstein
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 14
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After examining the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing on the discretionary decisionmaking of judges, this article supports the relief provided by the "safety valve" provision of the 1994 Crime Act.
Abstract: The "safety valve" provision allows judges to avoid applying mandatory minimum sentences for many first-time drug offenses. This provision will have a salutary impact on the Federal courts, in which district judges' efforts to do justice in individual cases and circuit judges' efforts to enforce determinate sentencing laws have fostered inter-court and intra-court strains. The effects of mandatory minimum sentences on the judiciary include increasing judges' workload, forcing real decisionmaking "underground," and worsening relations between trial and appellate benches. Judicial opposition to the mandatory minimums, which has been almost universal, reflects the effects of the minimums on the judiciary as well as defendants. Traditional sentencing guidelines provide for an elaborate system of departures from the guidelines; in some districts, departures are applied in nearly one-quarter of the cases. Under statutory minimum sentences, on the other hand, a sentencing judge can "depart" from the mandatory sentence only on the government's motion, usually made in a letter that indicates the defendant provided substantial assistance to the prosecution. In showing the difference between sentencing under the mandatory minimum requirement and the "safety valve" of the Crime Act, this article focuses on a representative case, United States v. Ekwunoh. In addition to being the first published case to apply the "safety valve," it may be the only case in which a defendant was first sentenced to a mandatory minimum term and then resentenced under the "safety valve." 93 footnotes
Main Term(s): Federal courts
Index Term(s): Drug offenders; Federal legislation; Judicial discretion; Mandatory Sentencing
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