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Drug offender clemency initiative continues

New York residents who have interest in the Obama administration's continued effort to reduce the effect of antiquated sentencing laws may want to know that the President has commuted more than 1,000 sentences as of Nov. 22, 2016. In the waning days of the Obama administration, the U.S. Justice Department has indicated that it will continue to recommend such action until Mr. Obama leaves office in early 2017.

These commutations differ from a presidential pardon in that they do not indicate forgiveness of a crime and do not allow affected prisoners immediate release from incarceration. Instead, they are designed to reduce the unduly harsh sentences of some prisoners who were previously convicted of non-violent drug crimes. A form of clemency, the commutations constitute one effort undertaken by the outgoing president that the incoming Trump administration will not overturn, according to the director of one criminal justice reform group.

The November group of commutations involved 79 prisoners. Since first announcing his clemency initiative in 2014, President Obama has received thousands of applications, more than 6,000 of which remained pending as of Aug. 31. Although advocates have shown support for the newest round of commutations, they are urging the White House to pick up the pace as there is no indication that the Trump administration will continue the effort.

Individuals who have been arrested for drug crimes may be subject to harsh penalties if a conviction is obtained. As a result, they may find it beneficial to seek advice from an attorney who well knows how to counter the prosecution's case.

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