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President Obama offers many drug commutations

North Carolina residents may be interested to learn that in the final months of his presidency, President Obama has used his clemency authority to free more than 100 prisoners who are serving long sentences for nonviolent drug-related offenses. One of the people freed is a man who has been serving a life sentence since he was 25 for possession in 2018.

The president has used his authority to grant clemency to more than 650 prisoners. Obama has remained committed to reducing sentences for certain drug convictions and reducing prison overcrowding. The number of inmates in federal prisons has grown since 1980 from 25,000 to over 200,000.

Several elements must be in place for a commutation to occur. The person must have already served at least 10 years, must not be tied to cartels or gangs and must have good conduct. The type of sentence they were given must also be one that would be considerably less if the same person were sentenced today. It is expected that there will be further commutations during Obama's remaining months in office despite Republican opposition.

Although a drug-related sentence today might be less severe than it would have been in previous decades, drug charges are still serious, and a person facing such charges might want to consult an attorney. If the person's rights were violated when they were taken into custody, then the charges might be dismissed. A plea bargain might allow the person to plead guilty to lesser charges and receive a less severe penalty.

Source: PBS, "111 will be freed under Obama's latest commutation of nonviolent drug offenders," Kevin Freking, Aug. 30, 2016

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