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46 nonviolent drug offenders to be released from prison early

California residents might have heard about the commutations that President Obama has been issuing for nonviolent drug offenders. The president issued 46 new commutations on July 13 for people who would have already served their sentences if they had have been convicted of the same drug charges today, according to the White House.

In 2014, the president reportedly asked the Justice Department to identify and recommend nonviolent, low-level offenders who had been sentenced harshly by current standards. After the July 13 commutations, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates stated that the Justice Department would continue to recommend appropriate candidates for executive clemency. She also said that the Justice Department would keep working with Congress to recalibrate sentencing laws for non-violent drug offenders.

Each of the 46 people who were granted clemency received a letter from President Obama explaining why their applications had been granted and advising them to make the most of the opportunity. A White House blog that accompanied the announcement about the commutations stated that certain federal sentencing practices often result in nonviolent drug offenders receiving sentences of decades or life in prison. A majority of the people who were granted clemency on July 13 had prison sentences that were at least 20 years, and 14 of the people were serving life sentences.

A person who has been charged for nonviolent drug offenses may want to have the representation of a criminal defense attorney. Legal counsel may argue for a minimal sentence by pointing out that the defendant had no intention of causing harm to others. In some cases, a defendant may be able to receive a reduced sentence by proving that steps have been taken to recover from a drug addiction.

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

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