Recent Changes to Cocaine Laws in DC

If you are facing charges for any cocaine offense, it is important that you take time to understand the current laws and how they affect your case. A highly qualified attorney can explain the recent changes to cocaine laws in DC and what they mean for you.

Throughout the legal process, a diligent lawyer can work to build a case to help you avoid the consequences associated with cocaine charges. They can work to make sure the court is considering the recent changes in the law when adjudicating the case to protect your rights and freedom.

Disparity Between Crack and Powder Cocaine

In the last ten years, there have been significant changes to the federal laws for cocaine charges. One is that, before 2010, there was a disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences. In 2010, the disparities were eliminated, and crack cocaine now has the same range of penalties as powder cocaine. In 2019, the law changed again to make the law from 2010 retroactive. That means someone who was previously sentenced under the pre-2010 law may apply to have their sentence reduced under the new equal sentencing guidelines for cocaine.

It is important to note that the types of cocaine charges typically seen in federal courts are more likely to be distribution, trafficking, or possession with intent to distribute charges. Possession cases in Washington, DC, are heard in the local DC courts. The changes to federal law and cocaine charges apply to people who are currently facing or previously faced allegations of distribution or trafficking of cocaine and not those who face cocaine possession charges under local DC laws. An attorney can further explain whether these changes would apply in a specific situation.

Other Sentencing Options in DC

There has been criticism of the federal treatment of cocaine where people in non-violent cases face lengthy prison sentences that are not in line with the harm caused by their actions. There is also strong criticism of harsh federal punishments for drug-related cases in the disparate way they are enforced where minorities bear the disproportionate brunt of criminal enforcement. Due to strong activism by addiction groups, criminal reform groups, and civil rights groups, the criminal system is working towards alternatives to lengthy prison sentences. It is focusing on readjusting the reliance on harsh prison sentences in non-violent cases.

When someone faces cocaine charges in Washington, DC, there may be treatment and rehabilitation options available in lieu of incarceration in some situations. A person facing charges of cocaine possession might be eligible for a program called drug court that requires random urine screenings, intensive rehabilitation programs, and regular court appearances. If they do this, the individual’s criminal charges being completely dismissed.

Even people facing felony charges of possession with intent to distribute could be eligible for drug court depending on their personal circumstances. If they can participate in drug court, it may result in a person’s felony charges being reduced to misdemeanor charges with probation instead of jail time.

However, an individual’s eligibility for drug court treatment programs depends on their specific circumstances. Therefore, it is helpful to have a defense attorney who understands the available treatment and drug court options and can determine whether this may be appropriate.

Reducing Incarceration for Low-Level Charges

In Washington, DC, efforts have been made over the past several years to reduce the incarceration exposure faced by people charged with lower-level possession charges and low-volume possession with intent to distribute. One area of progress is understanding that in some circumstances, people who face drug addiction, poverty, or other difficult circumstances may be forced into situations where selling small amounts of cocaine is an act of desperation or addiction as compared to large volume traffickers.

Consequently, the law and judges are becoming more understanding of the needs of individuals facing addiction who are in desperate circumstances. The courts are more willing to seek alternatives to incarceration for them. An attorney can help people in these situation understand their options and can fight for fair penalties.

Speak to an Attorney About Recent Changes to Cocaine Laws in DC

Recent changes to cocaine laws in DC recognize that long periods of incarceration may not be the best way to handle these offenses. Additionally, they also eliminated the disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine. Regardless of these changes, cocaine offenses can still carry harsh penalties and long-lasting consequences which makes the guidance of an experienced attorney crucial. To learn more about the changes in the law and how they may affect your case, call today for a free consultation.