Home  News & Articles  Criminal Law Articles  Bill would eliminate sentencing disparity for drug possession

Bill would eliminate sentencing disparity for drug possession

A bill has moved forward that will eliminate the disparity in sentences for crack and cocaine possession.

Sentences For Crack Possession Would Be Brought In Line With Cocaine Possession

A bill that would lower sentences for possession of crack cocaine has moved forward in the California Senate, according to the Los Angeles Times. The bill, called the California Fair Sentencing Act, would bring sentences for crack cocaine possession in line with sentences for possession of powder cocaine. Advocates of the changes say they will help end an unfair system that discriminates against ethnic minorities and the poor. Other states and the federal government have already moved on similar measures.

Cocaine Vs. Crack Cocaine

California currently has different sentences for possession of crack cocaine versus cocaine. According to the Sacramento News and Review, crack possession comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of three, four, or five years, or double those sentences if the accused already has a prior conviction. Possession of cocaine in powder form, however, only leads to sentences of two, three, or four years. In addition, probation and suspended sentences are much easier to obtain for people convicted of cocaine possession.

The problem, however, is that crack and cocaine are essentially the same drug. Both drugs are cocaine; they are just prepared differently. Despite there being essentially no difference between the two substances, a media scare during the 1980s led to a popular belief that crack was somehow deadlier than cocaine. That erroneous belief helped contribute to the disparity in sentences.

Reduced Sentences

Critics of the current sentencing guidelines also point out a racially charged element to the current law. In recent years, 95.5 percent of people imprisoned for crack possession have been people of color, with the vast majority of those being African Americans. Despite such statistics, drug use studies suggest crack use is fairly equal among different races.

The proposed California Fair Sentencing Act would target that disparity by reducing crack possession sentences so they are in line with cocaine possession sentences. In 2010, the U.S. Congress passed similar legislation to reduce sentences for crack possession, and other states have adopted similar measures.

Drug Possession Charges

While everybody should be treated equally by state laws, as this story shows, some improperly considered laws might put some people at a disadvantage.

As such, anybody who has been charged with a drug crime will need the help of a criminal defense attorney. Drug laws and sentences are complex and often severe, and in order to make sure his or her rights are defended throughout the legal process, an accused person will want the expertise that only experienced legal representation can provide.

Keywords: cocaine, crack, possession, sentences