Drug-Sniffing Dogs: Accurate Crime-Fighters or Tool of Deceptive Police?

Police K-9’s: we’re led to believe they have been trained in the best dog academies to use their superior sniffers to identify illicit drugs. They are essentially used to find drugs when cops themselves can’t identify their presence. But not all research backs up their use, with some even indicating the dogs are mere extensions of what their handlers expect them to find. Still, like shields, tanks and flash-grenades, they are common tools in the Drug War that law enforcement across the country insists on waging. [Read more…]

Mandatory Minimum Felony Drug Charges for Nonviolent Offenses Are a Terrible Idea

Mandatory minimum sentences were part of the tough on crime movement a few decades ago. They seek to dole out the harshest penalties to people convicted of felony drug charges and more. In the case of these non-violent offenders, a several-year stint in prison is as likely to “help” them and their community as a kick in the rear.

In other words, mandatory minimums are ineffective and actually counterproductive. Fortunately, some lawmakers are coming to terms with this and supporting a “safety valve” that would allow federal judges more flexibility in these cases.

Felony Drug Charges for Nonviolent OffensesCurrently, if you are found guilty of a felony drug charge or other offense that falls under mandatory minimums, the judge’s hands are tied. They must sentence you to at least as much as the law prescribes. This is unfair for several reasons, namely because no two cases are the same.

Why Felony Drug Charges Shouldn’t Always Trigger Stiff Mandatory Minimums

U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul are pushing for the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, hoping that by allowing judges greater flexibility in sentencing we can undo some of the damage brought on by these often draconian sentences. While this law applies to the federal mandatory minimum laws, states are also making changes and the passage of this could signal additional reform.

The American people are ready to make sentencing reform a priority, and the states are leading the way. Forced by budget constraints to make tough political decisions, states have reduced prison populations while improving community safety. Yet the federal system has lagged behind, and our prison population continues to grow. Our reliance on mandatory minimums has been a great mistake. These sentences have not reduced crime, but they have imprisoned people, particularly non-violent offenders, for far longer than is just or beneficial.

–  U.S. Sens. Leahy and Paul, U.S. News

In cases where mandatory minimum sentences do not apply, your defense attorney can argue for leniency. Particularly in the case of felony drug charges, they can suggest that the facts of the case, your character, and other circumstances warrant a lighter sentence. In mandatory minimum sentence cases, these things really don’t matter.

The current mandatory minimum laws, both at federal and state levels, have filled our prisons and led to the U.S. being labeled the most incarcerated nation in the world. These long prison sentences do nothing to help ensure the defendant is “reformed” when released and can instead serve to institutionalize them further.

The time for thoughtless “tough on crime” rhetoric has come and gone. Now it’s time to look at intelligent legislation that strengthens, rather than weakens our country and the people within.



Federal Marijuana Excise Tax Bill Introduced

At least one Congressman is willing to make a serious effort to reconcile current strict federal prohibition of marijuana with the realities of new marketplaces for legal medical and recreational use in many States. It is encouraging to see some movement on a federal level to institute what many marijuana advocates have claimed for years would be the resultant boon to U.S. revenue from the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. [Read more…]

Colorado Court: Medical Marijuana Can Cost You Your Job

In Colorado,people with a number of conditions have been allowed to smoke marijuana for medical reasons. They’ve jumped through hoops to be allowed this designation and are “card carrying” members of what was once an elite club (not so elite now that recreational marijuana has been legalized). Still, the medical marijuana users represent a group of people who use the plant for its healing properties—many of them afflicted with debilitating and chronic illnesses. Despite their medical justification for using marijuana, a state Court of Appeals recently ruled their medicine, unlike the medicines pushed by large pharmaceutical companies, could cost them their job. [Read more…]

“Too Much Evidence” Leads to Dropped Charges

A Miami doctor, charged in Iowa with maintaining a huge illegal Internet pharmacy, is being let off the hook in part because there is simply “too much evidence.” According to the Associated Press, Armando Angulo was initially charged in 2007 and has since fled to his home country of Panama. The DEA has said the massive amount of evidence involved in the case is simply too much to maintain, so his charges have been dropped. [Read more…]

Obama Commutes Federal Sentence for Crack Cocaine Sale

President Barack Obama finally used his pardon power to commute the sentence of a federal inmate, the first such commutation he’s granted since taking office. This prisoner was a victim of the imbalanced crack-cocaine laws in place before the Fair Sentencing Act reduced the disparities between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine. [Read more…]

Marijuana Legalization Supported by Half of All Americans

A new poll by Gallup puts support for marijuana legalization at an all time high, 50% of all Americans. [Read more…]

As Attitudes towards Marijuana Wavers, Demand Encourages Chaos in Mexico

It’s estimated that 11% of Americans over the age of 12 regularly smoke marijuana. The pot they are smoking, most likely comes from south of the border. And this high demand for marijuana finances a battle between violent cartels that is said to have killed 40,000 Mexicans over the past 5 years. While legal changes in the U.S. stand to further push the substance into the acceptable range, it may only worsen things for our neighbors to the south. [Read more…]

States Consider Drunk Driving, Violent Offender, and Murderer Registries

Online registries for sex offenders are searchable across the country—allowing people to find out where those convicted of sex crimes live and what their offense was. It makes the public feel safe and it gives the lawmakers who proposed and passed the bills a sort of political clout, as they seem most interested in public safety and being tough on the worst criminals of all. But, the sex offender registries have shown little if any impact on recidivism. So, why are lawmakers now suggesting states spend millions on everything from drunk drivers to fierce pets? [Read more…]

Judges Still Sentencing Crack Defendants Under Unjust Law

In what was called the Fair Sentencing Act, Congress reduced the glaring disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences. But they failed to make it retroactive to apply to those who where previously convicted, but not yet sentenced. Now, judges are being forced to sentence defendants under the old and horribly skewed law despite the general recognition that such law was completely unjust. But, they aren’t doing it without voicing their opinions. [Read more…]