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How Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Have Hurt Ordinary Americans

Brian J Smith Nov. 5, 2013

The United States has adopted a mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes, but do these laws do more damage than good? Individuals convicted of drug possession or drug trafficking are often portrayed as horrible people or heartless criminals, when oftentimes it’s an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In August 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will stop giving mandatory minimum sentences for certain low level drug offenders. Under Holder’s plan, people will now be charged with punishments that fit their individual crimes, rather than excessive prison sentences that are most appropriate for members of gangs, cartels, or large-scale organizations. Here are some painful examples of how decent, hard working American citizens have been hurt by this outdated system.

  1. The man who sold his pain medicine to an informant who claimed to be in need.

A perfect example of draconian drug laws is that of John Horner, who was sentenced to 25 years in jail for selling his pain pills to an undercover agent he befriended. A father working at a fast food restaurant, Horner was prescribed pain medication after losing an eye. The undercover agent claimed to be in a great deal of pain, and said that he was unable to afford the full price of the pain medication he needed. That’s when Horner offered some of his own medication. For this act of kindness, he will spend more time in prison than Enron’s former CEO, who was found guilty in one of modern times’ largest corporate frauds.

  1. The medical marijuana dispensary.

Although Chris Williams’ medical marijuana dispensary was compliant with Montana state laws, it was raided by the federal government and he faced at least the minimum sentence of 5 years in jail. Because Williams kept a gun on the premises, prosecutors charged him with possessing a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking, which upped his sentence to a mandatory minimum of 85 years. While convicted of possessing a federally illegal substance, the judge got prosecutors to drop all gun charges. Even after the gun charges were dropped, the judge commented that the 5 year jail sentence was “unfair and absurd.”

  1. An autistic teen duped into buying marijuana for his “first real friend.”

Police in Riverside County, California, arrested an autistic high school student after an undercover police officer posed as a new friend asking for marijuana. The boy, believing he had finally made a friend at school, procured the marijuana at the officer’s request. Police arrested the boy and a group of other students. He was given informal probation, 20 hours of community service, and was expelled from his school. The incident gained national attention, with groups condemning it as gross police misconduct.

These are just a few of the countless examples of individuals who are ensnared by these laws, and slapped with punishments that do not fit the crime. To learn more about your rights after being charged with drug crimes, or to find a drug lawyer in Las Vegas, contact Brian J. Smith at (702) 380-8248 today.