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Obama grants clemency to 46 nonviolent drug offenders

On July 13, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 mostly nonviolent drug offenders, including three from South Carolina. According to the White House, most of the individuals would have already served their sentences had they been convicted of the same crimes under current sentencing laws. The president sent a letter to each of the people who received clemency, saying that it was now up to them to take advantage of the opportunity that they had been given.

In a White House blog post addressing the commutations, the counsel to the president noted federal sentencing practices have led to excessive penalties for some nonviolent drug offenders and said that Obama is committed to modifying them. The president has now commuted the sentences of almost 90 people, including eight last year. In 2014, he asked the Justice Department to identify and recommend for clemency low-level, nonviolent offenders who would receive lighter sentences for the same crimes today.

Of the 46 offenders who received commutations, most faced 20 years or more in prison. Fourteen people were facing life sentences. The three South Carolina offenders were all serving sentences of around 20 years for drug possession with the intent to distribute.

South Carolina residents arrested on alleged drug charges may benefit by immediately retaining the aid of a criminal defense attorney. After reviewing the case, an attorney could recommend defense strategies appropriate to the situation. Legal counsel could also review the conduct of authorities during the investigation to ensure that a defendant's constitutional rights were not violated. In some situations, it may be advisable to negotiate a plea agreement that reduces penalties in exchange for a guilty plea.

Source: NPR, "White House Announces Commutations For 46 Mostly Nonviolent Offenders," Krishnadev Clamur, July 13, 2015

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