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Are nonviolent drug crime penalties in need of reform?

Four New Jersey individuals currently serving time for drug convictions recently got an early Christmas present: a commutation, or shortening, of their sentence by President Barack Obama.

The Obama administration has stated that sentencing reform is needed for convictions involving nonviolent drug offenders. President Obama specifically characterized sentences lasting decades or even for life for such crimes as making “no sense.”

Our criminal defense law firm has helped many individuals facing drug charges in New Jersey. We have represented clients facing all types of misdemeanor and felony drug charges, including possession, intent to distribute, sale or trafficking, and manufacturing. Our strategy depends on the unique circumstances of each case.

We start our analysis with a review of the procedures followed by the police during the arrest. For example, police generally have a right to stop an individual only if they reasonably believe a crime is in progress. Thereafter, probable cause or a warrant is required before a stop may escalate into an arrest. If there were improprieties in the arrest procedures, we will determine whether any procedural due process challenges can be raised in court. In some instances, a court may exclude evidence obtained unlawfully. Without such evidence, the prosecution may be unable to meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other cases, a successful outcome for a criminal defendant might mean reduced fines or prison time. Given the recent example set by President Obama, prosecutors may be more willing to negotiate in cases where the drug crime was nonviolent. Our law firm can provide strong advocacy, and we also offer a free initial consultation.

Source: NBC New York, “4 in NY, NJ Among 79 to Have Drug Sentences Commuted By President Obama,” Nov. 22, 2016

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