Illinois residents may have heard that President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 individuals, most of whom were nonviolent drug offenders, on July 13. The White House stated that the majority of those who received a commutation would have already served their sentences had current sentencing laws been in effect at the time of their convictions.

The president has now commuted the sentences of nearly 90 individuals, including eight last year. The president sent to each of the 46 people he granted clemency to saying that he believed that they had the potential to change their lives for the better, and that it was now up to them to take advantage of the opportunity. In a White House blog post addressing the commutations, the counsel to the president noted that federal sentencing guidelines have led to many excessive sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

Of those who had their sentences commuted, most faced 20 years or more in prison. Fourteen individuals were facing life sentences. In 2014, Obama requested that the Department of Justice identify and recommend for clemency nonviolent, low-level offenders who would be given more lenient sentences for the same crimes today.

Any Illinois resident facing a drug charge may benefit by immediately contacting a criminal defense attorney for assistance. After reviewing the facts of the case, an attorney could recommend the best defense strategies available under the circumstances. In some cases, legal counsel may believe it is advisable to try to negotiate a plea arrangement with the prosecutor that would entail a plea of guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for the more serious one being withdrawn.

Source: NPR, “White House Announces Commutations For 46 Mostly Nonviolent Offenders,” Krishnadev Clamur, July 13, 2015