Houman Fakhimi

Orange County Drug Crime: Crack Cocaine Sentence Reductions

Orange County drug crime convictions often net penalties that are far too harsh for the actual crime committed.

Orange County Defense Attorney Houman Fakhimi knows this, and he and his staff work aggressively to poke holes in the state's case before it ever gets to the trial phase. Often, this can lead to charges that are dismissed or significantly downgraded - a testament to the fact that a skilled attorney is a worthwhile investment indeed.

Now, the Supreme Court of the United States has weighed in on Orange County drug crime penalties, specifically those related to crack cocaine.

It had already been decided by Congress that sentences for conviction of crimes involving crack cocaine were far too severe - and worse were racially discriminatory. That's because white powder cocaine was found to be more often in the possession of whites, while the rock form of the drug was more frequently found in possession of blacks.

It's the same drug, but the sentences differed wildly.

So now, under the Fair Sentencing Act, the penalties for selling small amounts of crack cocaine have been significantly reduced. Previously, selling 50 grams of crack - or less than two ounces - meant a mandatory sentence of 10 years in federal prison. Now, however, the threshold for that new sentence has been raised to 280 grams.

it's estimated that about 1,800 inmates are currently eligible to go free, and another 12,000 could receive a reduced sentence and early release. On average, sentence reductions will be by about 37 months - more than three years.

Some of the defendants may not be able to go free immediately, as they may still have to serve the remaining sentence on any other charges.

The question the Supreme Court is weighing in on is whether this law is going to apply to individuals who were arrested prior to the passage of the law (in August 2010) but were convicted afterward. Specifically there is a drug case out of Illinois in which a man was arrested for selling 5 grams of crack cocaine in 2008. However, he was not sentenced for this crime until September 2010 - just after the law had been passed. Still, the judge sentenced him under the old guidelines.

This will be a somewhat tough case to wrestle with because typically, trial courts have deemed that new laws shouldn't be applicable to old crimes. What makes this unique, however, is that the sentencing laws regarding crack cocaine were specifically found to be racially discriminatory. So do we go on with a practice in which discrimination is proven? Or do we retroactively apply the obviously fairer legislation?

Our Orange County defense attorneys will be closely watching how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on this case. If you have any questions about what this might mean for your sentence, or if you have been arrested for an Orange County drug crime, contact the Criminal Defense Team with Trial Attorney Houman Fakhimi.