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Bill may allow some federal inmates to shorten their sentences

Some federal inmates in Texas could find their sentences reduced if a bill that is making its way through the Senate is successful. Despite some conservative opposition, overall, the bill has broad bipartisan support that includes both the American Civil Liberties Union and police unions as well as senators and representatives from both parties.

The bill underwent some revision in order to get that support. It is designed to give people in prison for certain types of crimes time off their sentences for participation in such activities as work or education. The hope is that participation in these types of activities will reduce recidivism. The ACLU and some other groups did not support an earlier version that allowed more discretion from the government as to who would be eligible. A provision was also added that would let people petition for release if they were serving a sentence for crack-cocaine offenses. In 2010, the disparity between sentencing for cocaine and crack cocaine was eliminated by Congress because of its racial bias, but it was not made retroactive.

Several other amendments to the bill have been proposed, and it is unclear how much they would affect its success if adopted. They include eliminating several more classes of eligibility and requiring crime victims to be notified of prisoner release dates.

People who are charged with both federal and other types of offenses may want to consult an attorney. Some people may think that certain offenses, such as drunk driving, are not very serious. In fact, a drunk driving conviction can have serious consequences. A lawyer may be able to make suggestions about how to handle criminal defense and drunk driving charges. This might include questioning the accuracy of a Breathalyzer test or an officer's account of a traffic stop.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Bipartisan Bill Reducing Some Criminal Sentences Advances In Senate," Igor Bobic, Arthur Delaney, December 17, 2018

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