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When Are Mandatory Minimum Sentences NOT Mandatory?

Crowley Law Firm, PLLC Case News

In a recent decision in federal court Eastern District Of Arkansas, John Crowley defended George Pittman in a drug case which required that federal mandatory minimums were to be applied in sentencing. As stated in the FAMM website a judge may NOT impose a sentence shorter than the mandatory minimum based on the weight of the drug. There is a chart on the FAMM page.

However, there are two narrow exceptions in which a judge may impose a shorter sentence. Those are when “First, the defendant may provide “substantial assistance” by turning in others. If the government is satisfied with the cooperation, it can ask the court to impose a sentence lower than the mandatory minimum. Second, some defendants qualify for the “safety valve,” a law Congress passed in 1994 (at FAMM’s urging) to provide relief from mandatory minimum sentences. Click here to download FAMM’s fact sheet on the “safety valve” considerations.

As in John Crowley’s recent successful defense of George Pittman, the safety valve came into play. Mr. Pittman had been regularly employed and paying taxes for the past several years. His crime did not involve a firearm and there was considerable doubt that points assigned to a previous conviction may not be valid. There is an outline of the five-part test where a safety valve decision by a judge would be appropriate. In this case, federal prosecutor Edward Walker, ESQ, agreed with defense counsel prior to the sentencing hearing that he would agree the non-application of the mandatory minimum sentence.

Mr. Pittman’s role in the crime on its face met many of the parts of the test.

John Crowley’s defense highlighted these aspects of the safety vale requirements and the judge was in doubt as to the validity of “18” criminal history points given to the defendant in earlier convictions. As a result, while facing the possibility of a five or ten year mandatory penalty, Mr. Pittman was released on probation only.

Regardless of the various cultural controversies regarding the decriminalization of drugs and their sale and regardless of Mr. Pittman’s role in the crime, the judge was able to see in John Crowley’s presentation that a mandatory minimum was not the just course for the court to take. The Crowley Law Firm in Seattle has attorneys who are well versed in the federal judicial system and practice at the federal level in Washington, Oregon and even Arkansas.