Nonviolent drug offenders receive commutations

Michigan residents who stand accused or convicted of nonviolent crimes may be interested to learn that in July, President Obama commuted the sentences of 46 individuals. The men and women, who had mostly been convicted of nonviolent crimes related to drug offenses, now number among the 90 or so people released by the president during his two terms in office.

According to an NPR report, some 14 of those who received a commutation were serving life sentences. The commuted prison sentences are now scheduled to expire in November 2015.

Writing for the White House blog, a presidential aide recognized that many of the prison sentences given to nonviolent drug offenders were unjust. The deputy attorney general also noted that in 2014, the executive branch requested that the Justice Department provide viable standards for identifying low-level convicts who might be eligible for pardons. Many of the people who were released were convicted for crimes during eras when sentencing was much harsher, and observers noted that had the penalties then been commensurate with modern standards, these people would have already been freed.

Although some modern politicians take a less draconian view of drug offenses and sentencing practices, those who stand accused are still at high risk of receiving severe sentences. Presidential pardons are extremely uncommon, and many prosecutors still continue to take harsh approaches to punishing people for drug-related offenses. Those who have been accused may find that their best chance at fighting back lies in pursuing a strong defense strategy with the assistance of an attorney, such as calling into question the validity of evidence-gathering techniques or bringing their own good character to light.