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A Look at the Federal First Step Act

When charged with a drug related crime, it is vital to know about how current law will affect your possible sentencing. Since the 1980’s, the government has utilized mandatory minimum sentencing to ensure long prison stints for drug offenders. Mandatory minimums require the judge and jury to give convicted offenders a certain amount of time in prison, regardless of the circumstances. Since December of 2018, however, the FIRST STEP Act has changed these laws, and can change the amount of time you face in prison if convicted of a crime.

The History of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

In an effort to combat the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s, the government implemented law punishing serious drug offenses with mandatory minimums. The mandatory minimums were aimed at combating addiction and repeat offenders who resumed selling narcotics following their release from prison. It was thought that incredibly lofty prison sentences that couldn’t be shortened by a judge or jury would prevent the sale and purchase of narcotics. Suddenly, offenders who often did not have criminal backgrounds were going to prison for the majority of their life for non-violent crimes. 

The mandatory minimums seemed to have the opposite effect of their intentions. Instead of decreasing the crime rate, it rose dramatically. Consequently, the prison population rose immediately following the installment of mandatory minimums. Additionally, repeat offender statistics did not fall, likely due to the lack of opportunity for legal earning following a prison stay. It was clear that mandatory minimums were ineffective. 

The FIRST STEP Act and a new way to circumvent mandatory minimums

In December of 2018 the FIRST STEP Act was put into place. FIRST STEP stands for Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person. The air of FIRST STEP is to allow judges and juries to cut short sentences of serious drug offenders. In order to qualify, you must show both good behavior and job training. The job training displays your ability to make legal earnings once released from prison. Additionally, the Act allows judges and juries during initial sentencing to sentence offenders under the mandatory minimum depending on the circumstances of the case. 

What else can the FIRST STEP Act do?

  • Place prisoners within 500 driving miles of their families
  • Increased good conduct credit from 47 days per year to 54 days per year
  • Increased residential reentry programs
  • Fund and incentivize rehabilitative programming

Arrested for a drug related offense? Let us help.

Despite being caught with drugs, you may still have a valid legal defense. We approach each case with care and vigor as we fight for the most favorable outcome and sentencing by showing the state your perspective. Additionally, our offices are experienced in knowing what evidence can and cannot be used against you. Having a knowledgeable attorney can be the difference between a long or short sentence, and we will fight to ensure the best case scenario. 

If you’re facing criminal drug charges in Winston-Salem or elsewhere in Forsyth, Guilford, Stokes, Surrey, or Davidson County, we urge you to contact our law firm, Greenwood Law. We put the law on your side and protect your rights throughout the entire legal process. Call our Winston-Salem office today at 336-661-8788 or schedule an appointment using this online contact form.


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