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NCJ Number: 200448 Find in a Library
Title: Fifteen Years After the Federal Sentencing Revolution: How Mandatory Minimums Have Undermined Effective and Just Narcotics Sentencing
Journal: American Criminal Law Review  Volume:40  Issue:1  Dated:Winter 2003  Pages:87-132
Author(s): Ian Weinstein
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 26
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article identifies the existence and dynamics of two different Federal criminal law systems that operate in tandem to impact Federal sentencing practices in different ways.
Abstract: One system is that of narcotics prosecutions, wherein prosecutorial power often is unchecked and sentences frequently are unpredictable but generally quite harsh. Narcotics sentences have been decreasing steadily for almost 10 years, and there are wide disparities in sentences for similarly-situated defendants. Too many defendants receive sentences that are disproportionate to the severity of the harm caused by their conduct, and too few defendants will face the risks that come with attempting to claim their rights in the face of often overwhelming prosecutorial power. The other Federal criminal law system involves the bulk of non-narcotics Federal prosecutions. The sentences in these areas are far more stable and predictable than in narcotics cases. Problems of excessive severity are not as pervasive among sentences in the non-narcotics cases, since there are fewer mandatory minimum cases, and judges are a more effective counterweight to instances of prosecutorial overreaching. This article argues that much of the stability in non-narcotics sentences lies in the balance of power among prosecutors, judges, and defense attorneys; whereas, the vast increase in prosecutorial power to control narcotics sentences is at the core of the problems with Federal narcotics sentencing. The author calls for the restoration of some judicial sentencing power in narcotics cases. 204 footnotes
Main Term(s): Federal courts
Index Term(s): Discretionary decisions; Drug law offenses; Federal sentencing guidelines; Judicial discretion; Prosecutorial discretion; Sentencing disparity; Trend analysis
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