Today, the Smarter Sentencing Act was approved 13-5 by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill cuts most drug mandatory minimums in half, makes the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive, increases safety valve eligibility, and directs the Commission to issue new drug guidelines. We put together a fuller explanation here.
Should this bill pass, it could well affect our current clients. Anyone who has not yet been sentenced may be eligible to benefit from the penalty changes. The Supreme Court's decision in Dorsey v. United States applied the Fair Sentencing Act to all defendants whose sentencing occurred after the Act's passage, regardless of when their crime occurred. Critical to the Court's decision in Dorsey was the FSA's direction to the Sentencing Commission to issue emergency amendments recalibrating penalties to fit the newly announced mandatory minimums. The Smarter Sentencing Act has an identical feature, and Dorsey should dictate that it will be applied to defendants not yet sentenced as well.
So...if you have a client accused or convicted of a drug offense, think about the implications of the Smarter Sentencing Act before pulling the trigger on strategy decisions. And remember to track the progress of the bill through Congress with the widget on our blog. (Though apparently we are ahead of our own widget in reporting the committee endorsement).