If you are in need of an Arizona drug lawyer, you’ll be happy to know that some sense is coming to this nation’s current mindset when it comes to drug laws, but realize that this is a slow dawning realization. In 2007, the US Sentencing Commission lowered the crack cocaine penalty that many argued was racist and draconian in nature. Previously, one gram of crack cocaine received the same penalty as 100 grams of powder cocaine, so that even a small amount meant serious prison time. It’s these sorts of discrepancies that can be used in arguments that may prove useful to your client.
Many critics argued that these were racist guidelines, as crack, being a more affordable drug, was predominantly used by a poorer, African American community, where as cocaine cost a fortune and was limited to the white suburbs. Essentially, both drugs are the same substance, though cocaine users typically can afford a better drug lawyer than their crack smoking counterparts.
While the new laws ease the penalties, they don’t erase the disparity that exists in penalties associated with these drugs. Instead, those convicted of crack possession receive a lower base offense level for each quantity range to the next lowest base offense level. The commission also adjusted the ratio to determine the “marijuana equivalency” for crack cocaine, consulted in any case involving crack and at least another type of drug. Unfortunately, simply lowering this base level created varying ratios between crack and powder cocaine, and crack and marijuana; a challenging dilemma for any drug lawyer.
The wide ranging ratios used by the commission create anomalies that negatively impact the clients of a drug lawyer, often those whose offenses involve a lesser amount of drugs. These anomalies have so far been reviewed and rejected by at least 3 courts. Judges have argued that no rational basis exists for treating similarly guilty individuals so widely different, simply based on the substance for which they were found in possession.
Let’s start with an example. Suppose you are an Arizona drug lawyer, and your client is accountable for 75 grams of crack and 10 grams of powder cocaine. Under the existing conversion guidelines your client would be found under a base offense level for 75 grams of crack, which is level 30. The guidelines than require the court to multiply each gram of crack by 14 grams of marijuana. That adds up to 1,050 kilograms of pot your client is held accountable for. Even before considering the 10 grams of power cocaine, your client has moved up from base offense level 30 to level 32. If your client had only been found guilty of the crack alone, it would take an additional 75 grams of crack to reach level 32.
The client of a drug lawyer is therefore penalized at a higher rate for a lesser amount of crack, simply because the conversion tables apply such an inconsistent ratio between crack and marijuana. This opens up a number of different arguments that can be made.
An Arizona drug lawyer could argue that the guidelines are only advisory. A point could be made that the guidelines are irrelevant because they were designed for cases far more serious. The court should not follow such guidelines without the basis of a full study, backed by empirical data. The court should also dismiss the guidelines based on the poor judgment of the US Sentencing Commission.
About the Author
David Michael Cantor is an AV rated (the highest possible rating) lawyer and a Certified Criminal Law Specialist per the Arizona Board of Legal Specialization. For more information about an Arizona drug lawyer, visit our site.