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Atlanta Federal Criminal Defense Law Blog

Agency will retroactively apply new federal drug crime policy

One of the frustrations in preparing a strong criminal defense for federal drug charges can be the intersection between state and federal laws. If the latter are invoked, federal mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines may result in much higher penalties.

Some criminal justice advocates have questioned whether those guidelines offer enough flexibility to judges to tailor sentences to individual defendants' circumstances. Other commentators have noted inconsistencies in the guidelines between the incarceration terms recommended for crack versus powder cocaine, with a potentially racially disparate impact. Congress acted in 2010 to reduce that discrepancy, but concerns over the seemingly punitive nature of federal drug sentencing guidelines have remained.

Minus 2 Drug Amendment Retroactive

The Commission voted to make the minus 2 drug amendment retroactive to all persons who have already been sentenced and whose sentence was based upon the drug quantity table (career offenders do not get relief because their sentence was based upon the career offender guideline not the drug quantity table). There are no categorical exclusions for things like gun enhancement, role in the offense, etc. The retroactive amendment, like the minus 2 amendment goes into effect on Nov 1, 2014. People who are currently incarcerated can file for a sentence reduction under 18 USC 3582 and the court can grant the motion after Nov 1, 2014, but no person can be released until Nov 1, 2015.

New rules announced for some federal criminal investigations

Although there can be overlap between state and federal crimes, one notable difference is sentencing. The Federal Sentencing Guidelines may impose more serious penalties than an equivalent offense under Georgia state law.

However, an attorney that focuses on federal crimes knows that it may sometimes be possible to depart from those guidelines, depending on the circumstances. For example, a first-time offender might be better positioned to make a case for mitigating factors.

Can admissions be made on a social media account?

Readers may have heard about prospective employers looking at candidates’ social media sites, but today’s story offers a new twist.

Specifically, a criminal defendant is appealing a conviction that resulted from rap lyrics he posted on his Facebook account. The man received a 44-month sentence under a federal law that makes it a felony to communicate threats about injuring another person.

Alleged repeat felony offense implicates harsher penalties

Although there is a separation of church and state in this country, any individual that commits an unlawful sexual offense can be held accountable. Unfortunately, the media scandal surrounding allegations of a sex crime often overshadow that actual outcome in the criminal trial. Even if not found guilty, an accused may face repercussions in his or her personal and professional life. 

The newsworthiness of child pornography crimes, in particular, is illustrated in the recent arbitration ruling involving a Midwestern Roman Catholic diocese. The religious entity is accused of failing to timely report the alleged sex crimes of a priest. 

Not all forensic evidence is equal in a criminal trial

When readers hear the term forensic evidence, they may assume that DNA analysis is involved. However, the term is much broader, encompassing the analysis of fingerprints, hair, bite marks and ballistics. 

Yet not all analytical techniques are the same. One of the cornerstones of the scientific method is reproducibility, or the possibility of accurately replicating a reported test result. According to a committee report from the National Academy of Sciences, DNA evidence is the only form of forensic evidence that produces reliable and consistent evidence. Regarding ballistics and handwriting analysis, the report characterized them as based on untested science.

Three charged with drug crimes after Georgia traffic stop

Being pulled over by the police can turn into a person's worst nightmare. After all, it is not unknown for a traffic stop in Georgia to lead to a vehicle search and potentially serious charges.

North Carolina politician pleads guilty to federal bribe charge

Sting operations are commonly used by federal investigators who hope to find evidence using covert operations. It may seem incongruous that federal officials engage in activities to promote a potential crime in the hopes of turning the tables on the target of the probe. In some cases, it is more than incongruous; criminal defense lawyers may scrutinize the police activity for its fairness and lawfulness.

An undercover sting was involved in the probe of the former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. Two federal agents posed as businessmen seeking to do business in Charlotte. Federal authorities accused the former mayor of unlawfully accepting bribes in the public corruption probe.

US Supreme Court revisits mental capacity in death sentencing

In mid-May, we discussed a criminal appeal that seeks to challenge the death penalty for a Texas inmate. Criminal appeals lawyers are arguing that a 2002 United States Supreme Court decision suggests that the man’s death sentence is unconstitutional based upon his mental capacity. Lawyers presented evidence that the man scored a variety of reading in IQ tests over the years; the test results generally straddled a reading of 70. His appeal was remanded for further findings regarding his mental capacity.

Since that story broke, the United States Supreme Court has further clarified the constitutional principles underlying mental capacity and the death penalty. Justice Anthony Kennedy says that, “Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

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