Mar 15, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden administration reverses Trump position on drug sentencing case

The U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court building. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Biden administration told the Supreme Court on Monday that low-level crack cocaine offenders should be considered eligible for reduced prison sentences under the First Step Act, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The Trump administration's 2018 First Step Act introduced a number of reduced prison sentences and reforms, but did not include minor cocaine possession as a "covered offense." Now the Biden administration is signaling support for a reversal of this stance.

The big picture: The Supreme Court is currently reviewing Terry v. United States to determine whether such offenses can be included in the First Step Act, enabling retroactive sentencing reforms to take place, per The Hill.

  • Biden's Acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote a letter to the court noting that the Justice department believes that the defendant in the case, Tarahrick Terry, should be eligible for a reduced sentence, per Reuters.
  • In 2008 Terry pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute 3.9 grams of crack cocaine and sentenced to 15-and-a-half years in prison, according to Reuters.

What they're saying: “There is no dispute that Black, Brown, and less well-off persons who were convicted of offenses involving crack cocaine received disproportionate and severe sentences as compared to violators convicted of powder cocaine offenses, said D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who filed an amicus brief for the case in conjunction with 19 other Attorney Generals.

What's next: According to Reuters, the Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments pertaining to the case on April 20.

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