Thursday, August 22, 2013

Modified Drug Charge Plea Deal in DC Area - Example of New Directive from AG Holder on Averting Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Low-Level Drug Offenders

The Washington Post is reporting that a man accused of drug running pleaded guilty in Alexandria, Virginia this week to a cocaine conspiracy charge that did not include a specific quantity of narcotics.  The Post believes this is the first case in the D.C. area to utilize Attorney General Eric Holder's new directive on mandatory minimum sentencing for minor drug offenders.

From the Post:
Marko Bukumirovic, 33, who lives in Severna Park, was charged in May with conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. But in an Alexandria court Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to essentially the same charge without the five-kilogram amount noted — an offense that has no mandatory minimum term.

On paper, the case seems to be one of the first public applications of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s directive on mandatory minimum sentencing — the centerpiece of a criminal-justice reform plan that aims to save tens of millions of dollars in prison costs by reserving the most severe penalties for high-level or violent offenders and allowing minor drug criminals to reenter society more rapidly. But practically, it is likely to have little impact on Bukumirovic’s sentence, said Stephen R. Pickard, his attorney.

Bukumirovic is no longer facing the 10-year mandatory minimum: The legal maximum he now faces is 20 years instead of life in prison, Pickard said. But as a low-level, first-time offender, Bukumirovic likely would have qualified for the “safety valve” — another mechanism that allows certain offenders to avoid mandatory minimum sentences, Pickard said. And the modified charge, he said, does not affect Bukumirovic’s sentencing guidelines at all.

“The basis of the charge has everything to do with Holder,” Pickard said. “Practical point? No difference. . . . Ultimately, the guidelines came out the same.”
The entire article is available here.

Video of Attorney General Holder announcing the new directive is available here.

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