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The Federal First Step Act of 2018

Here’s more meat on the bones of the new sentencing law from last week. Earning credit toward early release. You can earn 10-15 days of credit for every thirty that you participate in certain programs. These may include work programs, academic classes, vocational training, trauma counseling, substance-abuse treatment, faith-based services, and family-building and parenting. The credits Read More

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On the Friday Before Christmas …

When all through the House, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse: Congress enacted a major change to federal sentencing law. It’s called the First Step Act, and you may have heard about it. Here’s a press release on it from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. What does it do? About ten things. Read More

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Reasonable Minds Can Differ

But they will usually find more to agree on. Case in point: this short interview with the junior U.S. senator from Utah. He’s considered one of the more conservative members of Congress, but he’s also part of a bipartisan group that’s pushing to reform our criminal justice system. As a former federal prosecutor, he’s asked how he feels about the justice Read More

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The New DOJ Policy on Charging Decisions

Two weeks ago, the new U.S. Attorney General announced a new policy for charging and sentencing in criminal cases. Although the policy targets drug cases in particular, it applies to all federal prosecutions. You can break it down into three parts. First, prosecutors should file the “most serious, readily-provable” charges in each case. The most serious Read More

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A Penny For Your Thoughts, Judge

Thank God we live in a country whose leaders speak like this. What if they didn’t, or couldn’t? In this case, maybe it’s because the speaker, Alex Kozinski, a prominent federal judge, was an immigrant born behind the Iron Curtain, the son of two Holocaust survivors who came here when he was twelve. Maybe we value the rule of law Read More

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The Mercy Project

Life is fragile. We sometimes forget that, but we remember quickly when we lose something or someone important to us. We often forget it because, in the developed world, we tend to live longer and better than people ever have. We forget that, even in our own country, not everyone lives (and has lived) as we do. Last Friday, President Obama granted Read More

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Child-Pornography Possession in State and Federal Court

Among the common offenses for which people must register as sex offenders is possession of child pornography. Under California law, possession of child pornography is a felony, though it may be punished by imprisonment either in the county jail for up to one year or in state prison for 16 months, two years, or three years. Pen. Code § 311.11(a). If you possess Read More

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Why Are We Punishing This Man?

Here’s a set of facts for you. It appears that an Iowan jury has convicted a 48-year-old man of felony drug charges for growing marijuana that he uses to treat his terminal cancer. It appears the jury was not permitted to hear one word about why the man was growing the marijuana because there was no medical-marijuana law Read More

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Why We Defend Child Molesters

Here’s one reason. Last week, a federal court of appeals reversed the conviction of an 18-year-old boy who had confessed to molesting another 8-year-old boy. That may sound like an open-and-shut case of a predator or monster we should throw the book at, but hold on. The older boy had an IQ of 65, and the court reversed his conviction because it held that his so-called confession was Read More

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The Times May Be a-Changin’, and It’s a Good Thing

Last week, the chair of the United States Sentencing Commission delivered an important speech that brought conservatives, liberals, and others together under the banner of sentencing reform. The speech was entitled, “A Generational Shift for Drug Sentences,” and it was delivered by the Hon. Patti Saris, who is a federal district judge for the District of Massachusetts. Judge Saris currently serves as the chief judge of Read More

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