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Attorney General Sessions Orders Tougher Penalties for Drug Crimes

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered federal prosecutors to toughen penalties against known drug abusers and criminals, bringing an end to policies the Obama administration had implemented to remove low-level drug criminals from prisons and reduce mandatory minimums.

Sessions rescinded a pair of policies signed by predecessor Eric H. Holder Jr. Those policies urged prosecutors to avoid charging nonviolent offenders with crimes that had harsh mandatory minimums. Instead, Sessions issued his own memo directing prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense.”

New push the opposite direction of Maryland’s trend

The memo issued by Sessions heads in the opposite direction of Maryland when it comes to drug prosecution. In 2016, the state enacted the Justice Reinvestment Act, which passed with bipartisan support in both houses of the state legislature. The bill would likely reduce rates of incarceration and instead invest the savings from fewer imprisonments into treatment for drug crime offenders. It also peels back mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenders.

A spokesperson for Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Sessions’ memo does not impact state law in Maryland, nor the policies the Hogan administration will pursue. The governor believes solving the widespread opioid and heroin crises requires providing treatment and additional opportunities for people convicted of lesser drug offenses.

Sessions’ order has been the subject of controversy on a national level, but especially in Maryland, with state lawmakers who passed the Justice Reinvestment Act calling it “outrageous,” and a return to “a failure of a strategy.”

If you are facing drug charges and would like to learn more about your legal options and rights, speak with an experienced La Plata criminal defense attorney at Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A.


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