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DEA Attorneys Share Strategies for Reducing Drug Sentences and Fines

DEA Attorneys Share Strategies for Reducing Drug Sentences and Fines

As DEA attorneys, we understand the devastating impact that long prison sentences and hefty fines can have on individuals convicted of drug offenses. While we have a duty to uphold the law, we also recognize that punishment should fit the crime. Excessive sentences often fail to rehabilitate offenders or make communities safer. That’s why we advocate for sensible reforms that reduce penalties for low-level drug crimes. Here we share effective strategies we’ve used to help clients avoid draconian sentences and crippling financial burdens.

Seek Alternatives to Incarceration

For nonviolent offenders, especially those struggling with addiction, prison may do more harm than good. We’ve had success persuading judges to order probation, treatment or community service instead of jail time. Halfway houses, inpatient rehab and counseling allow individuals to get their lives back on track while still facing consequences. Treatment-based alternatives to incarceration have been shown to reduce recidivism and promote rehabilitation. We make a compelling case that our client would benefit more from treatment than sitting idle behind bars.

Argue for Lower Sentencing Guidelines

Federal and state laws impose mandatory minimums and sentencing guidelines for drug convictions. But within those parameters judges still have discretion. We scrutinize the facts to distinguish our case from more serious offenses. If, for example, our client possessed only a small quantity of drugs or played a minor role in a trafficking organization, we’ll advocate for a sentence on the lower end of the guidelines. Pointing out mitigating circumstances like minimal criminal history, family obligations, employment, and addiction can persuade judges to go easy on first-time and low-level offenders.

Get Charges Reduced Through Plea Bargains

An estimated 90-95% of criminal cases end in plea bargains rather than trials. We negotiate with prosecutors to reduce charges to less serious offenses in exchange for a guilty plea. For example, pleading to simple possession instead of possession with intent to distribute, or pleading down to a misdemeanor rather than a felony. This results in significantly lower sentencing exposure. Defendants avoid the time, cost, and gamble of a trial by agreeing to a lesser punishment upfront.

Challenge Constitutionality of Mandatory Minimums

Mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes often seem disproportionate to the offense. We raise constitutional challenges to these “one-size-fits-all” punishments. The 8th Amendment prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” We’ve argued that imposing a 5 or 10 year mandatory minimum on a low-level, nonviolent drug offender constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Some courts have ruled certain mandatory minimums unconstitutional when applied to specific defendants. Though not always successful, these arguments can persuade judges to issue lower sentences.

Highlight Disparate Impact on Minorities

The War on Drugs has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Black Americans are six times more likely than whites to be incarcerated for drug offenses despite equal rates of usage. We present data on racial disparities in sentencing to argue that a lengthy prison term will exacerbate existing inequities. Some judges factor this into sentencing decisions, issuing more lenient punishments to help rectify the imbalance. Reducing racial disparities in sentencing aligns with many judges’ notions of fairness and justice.

Appeal Excessive Fines

The Excessive Fines Clause of the 8th Amendment limits fines that are grossly disproportionate to the offense. Fines of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars often exceed a defendant’s ability to pay and ability to earn upon release from prison. We’ve succeeded in getting fines reduced by appealing to judges’ sense of fairness and mercy. We also argue fines should be based on an individualized assessment of a defendant’s financial means, not a blanket dollar amount tied to the quantity of drugs. Though not eliminated, fines can often be lowered to more reasonable amounts through these arguments.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

Advocate for Retroactive Application of Reforms

Many sentencing reforms and reduced mandatory minimums are not applied retroactively. This means people serving harsh sentences under old laws don’t get relief. We advocate for applying reforms retroactively so that individuals already in prison can petition for resentencing and early release. For example, the First Step Act made retroactive a reform reducing the crack vs powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Over 2,000 inmates have had sentences reduced under retroactive application of this reform. We view retroactive application of sentencing reforms as an issue of basic fairness.

Conclusion

As DEA attorneys, we don’t compromise on prosecuting drug crimes. But we believe justice requires that the punishment fit the individual crime and circumstances. Excessive incarceration and financial penalties fail to deter crime or rehabilitate offenders. We’ll continue advocating for sensible reforms and using sound legal strategies to reduce draconian sentences. The opioid crisis has shown that we can’t incarcerate our way out of drug abuse. A more nuanced, treatment-based approach can help low-level offenders get back on their feet and become productive members of society.

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