Is Congress Eliminating the Federal Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity?

By KevinMarcilliat, In Criminal DefenseCriminal JusticeDomestic Violence, 0 Comments

In an attempt to fight the “war on drugs” in the United States, Congress passed the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that created a 100-to-1 disparity between the amount of powder and cracks of cocaine required to enforce a federal mandatory minimum sentence.

The Act led to the undeniably disproportionate incarceration of Black people throughout the country, leading to significant and well-deserved backlash from civil rights groups and legal advocates nationwide.

Two years later, the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was passed to lower the disparity to 18-to-1 and eliminate the five-year mandatory minimum prison term for first-time possession of crack cocaine.

Nearly a decade later, the 2018 First Step Act made the Fair Sentencing Act retroactive to help reduce the size of the federal prison population.

Now, Congress is on the verge of eliminating the federal sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine crimes altogether through the EQUAL Act.

Here is what North Carolina residents need to know about the EQUAL Act and how it impacts those who are currently serving a federal prison sentence for crack cocaine offenses and those who are facing similar pending charges.

What Will the EQUAL Act Accomplish if Passed by the U.S. Senate?

This EQUAL — Eliminating a Quantifiably Unjust Application of the Law — Act will eliminate the federal sentencing disparity between drug offenses involving crack cocaine and powder cocaine.

Currently, different threshold quantities of crack cocaine (28 grams) and powder cocaine (500 grams) trigger the same statutory criminal penalties.

This bill eliminates the lower quantity thresholds for crack cocaine offenses, which means the same threshold quantities of crack cocaine and powder cocaine trigger the same statutory criminal penalties.

The change applies to future cases and cases pending on the date of enactment.

Concerning past cases, the bill authorizes a sentencing court to impose a reduced sentence on a defendant who was convicted or sentenced for a specified crack cocaine offense before this bill’s enactment.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with advocates and formerly incarcerated leaders this week where he described the legislation as “a priority.” Although Senator Schumer did not provide a timeline for its finalization, he stated he planned to bring the legislation to the floor to turn the bill into law.

The House passed the bill last September, with significant Republican support, and President Biden has signaled would sign it into law, should it reach his desk.

Have You Been Arrested for or Convicted of a Drug Crime That May Be Affected By the EQUAL Act Legislation?

If you have been charged with a drug crime in North Carolina, contact our skilled criminal defense attorneys in North Carolina at the Marcilliat & Mills PLLC today by calling (919) 838-6643 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can empower you to take a stand and pursue the best outcome for your unique legal circumstances.

The EQUAL Act may entitle you to an early release, or a lesser sentence for a crack cocaine conviction. Call us now to learn more.