Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed federal authorities to start bringing up the highest possible charges for criminals, making sure that the country sends rule-breakers to jail. He’s going against those pesky Obama-era policies where the ex “president” allowed criminals and drug dealers, to roam free.
Sessions has promised to make drugs his number one priority, so he will be focused on ending the cocaine trade, raiding illegal marijuana farms, etc.
“This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency,” Sessions wrote in a memo sent Thursday night to U.S. attorneys and made public early Friday.
The Daily Mail reports:
The move amounts to an unmistakable undoing of Obama administration criminal justice policies that aimed to ease overcrowding in federal prisons and contributed to a national rethinking of how drug criminals were prosecuted and sentenced. Critics said the change will subject more lower-level offenders to unfairly harsh mandatory minimum sentences.
Sessions contends a spike in violence in some big cities and the nation’s opioid epidemic show the need for a return to tougher tactics.
‘The opioid and heroin epidemic is a contributor to the recent surge of violent crime in America,’ Sessions said in remarks prepared for a Thursday speech in Charleston, West Virginia. ‘Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business. If you want to collect a drug debt, you can’t, and don’t, file a lawsuit in court. You collect it by the barrel of a gun.’
The policy memo says prosecutors should ‘charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense’ – something more likely to trigger mandatory minimum sentences. Those rules limit a judge’s discretion and are typically dictated, for example, by the quantity of drugs involved in a crime.
The memo concedes there will be cases in which ‘good judgment’ will warrant a prosecutor to veer from that rule. But any exceptions will need to be approved by top supervisors, and the reasons must be documented, allowing the Justice Department to track the handling of such cases by its 94 U.S. attorney’s offices.
And even if they opt not to pursue the most serious charges, prosecutors are still required to provide judges with all the details of a case when defendants are sentenced, which could lengthen prison terms.
The requirements ‘place great confidence in our prosecutors and supervisors to apply them in a thoughtful and disciplined manner, with the goal of achieving just and consistent results in federal cases,’ the memo states.
The directive rescinds guidance by Sessions’ Democratic predecessor, Eric Holder, who told prosecutors they could in some cases leave drug quantities out of charging documents so as not to trigger long sentences. Holder’s 2013 initiative, known as ‘Smart on Crime,’ was aimed at encouraging shorter sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and preserving Justice Department resources for more serious and violent criminals.
Though Holder did say that prosecutors ordinarily should charge the most serious offense, he instructed them to do an ‘individualized assessment’ of the defendant’s conduct. And he outlined exceptions for not pursuing mandatory minimum sentences, including if a defendant’s crime does not involve violence or if the person doesn’t have a leadership role in a criminal organization.