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Congress considers decreasing federal crime prison terms

A first-time offender, whether for a regular criminal charge or a federal offense, usually is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence. This can be a nightmare for an Auto and Multnomah County resident who has already learned his or her lesson and is ready to start a new life. Soon, this may all change as Congress has been studying bills that may do away with mandatory minimum sentences.

Sentencing reforms are usually difficult to come by since they are usually shunned by both liberals and conservatives who are afraid to be labeled as "soft" on crime. However, two bills, sponsored by a Democrat and Republican, are gaining support. The bills aim to allow judges to waive the mandatory minimum prison sentence in certain instances, particularly in crimes involving drugs.

The Attorney General has also shown support in working with Congress to amend sentencing regulations. It was just last month when the Attorney General instructed federal prosecutors to spare non-violent drug offenders from being charged with crimes that carry a minimum sentence. If the bills are passed, it may be welcome news for people convicted of a federal crime, especially a drug-related crime. The person may have a significant chance of starting over and reintegrating into the community and not spending excessive time in prison.

Although it is understandable that people who have committed a crime deserve to be punished, it should still be within a reasonable legal context. It is unfortunate enough that an Auto and Multnomah County resident is convicted of a crime, serving an unnecessarily long prison sentence or facing a questionable charge makes it even worse.

A person who has had a similar experience may need to consult a criminal law professional about addressing such discrepancies. Whether a person is facing charges or has already been convicted, he or she still has certain rights and should still be treated fairly.

Source: Oregon Live "Congress to consider relaxing some mandatory prison terms," Sep. 17, 2013

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