This Tampa Bay Times editorial calls on the Obama administration to rein in federal prosecutors who are charging small-fry drug offenders with crimes carrying mandatory sentences that Congress intended for kingpins and large-scale traffickers.
...federal prosecutors have become too enamored of the power they hold through this unfairly punitive [mandatory minimum] statute that allows them to bludgeon low-level defendants into cooperation. In fiscal year 2011, more than 74 percent of federal crack cocaine defendants faced a mandatory minimum sentence. Yet only 5.4 percent of them directed or managed an aspect of the drug business, according to the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
States, including Florida, have moved toward using drug courts and diversion programs for low-level, nonviolent drug criminals. Evidence demonstrates the programs reduce recidivism and give addicts an opportunity to live productive lives. But the federal system is not advancing apace. The Obama administration can change this, reduce the burden on the courts and the prisons, and save taxpayers money.Because this is a Florida editorial, I find this a fitting place to mention my test for whether a drug offender should land in federal court. I call it the Miami Vice test. If your drug activity isn't boating in big, Miami Vice-episode-worthy loads of drugs to a port or carting such loads across a border, you probably shouldn't be prosecuted in federal courts. Let the feds handle the whales, and leave the minnows to the states.