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Federal drug crime sentencing overhaul possible

Some political observers think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has a target painted on his back. He could be ousted from his post one of these days just as House Speaker John Boehner was recently deposed, but for right now, the senior senator from Kentucky remains one of the most powerful figures in Washington D.C. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are waiting to see if McConnell blesses bipartisan legislation put together by liberals and conservatives to reduce prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

If signed into law, the federal drug crime sentencing overhaul would also increase judges' discretion in sentencing, allowing them to sentence nonviolent drug offenders to below mandatory minimums.

Few items move forward in the Senate without the explicit approval of McConnell, however, and he has yet to signal where he will land on the bill introduced today by Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Charles Grassley as a "historic reform." If the bill makes its way through the Senate and House -- far from a given at this point -- and is signed by President Obama (he has urged lawmakers to pass similar measures), it would also enable some current inmates to get sentence reductions of up to 25 percent. The bill also eliminates the three-strikes provision for nonviolent offenders, the Associated Press reports.

However, some offenders would still be sentenced to mandatory life sentences for third felony convictions: sex offenders, violent offenders, those convicted on terrorism charges, those who commit large-scale fraud, as well as members of organized crime.

"This is the way the system is supposed to work," Texas Sen. John Cornyn said of the bipartisan effort to craft the bill.

We don't know the fate of the legislation, but we do know that at this moment, those who are arrested on federal drug trafficking and drug manufacturing charges are at risk of being sentenced to extraordinarily long periods of incarceration. That very real possibility makes the fierce defense at trial of your rights and liberty by a skilled Marshall County attorney more important than ever.

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