Federal inmates in Illinois and throughout the country had the opportunity to submit requests for a commutation before Barack Obama left office, and on Jan. 19, he approved those for 330 people serving drug sentences. He commuted a total of 1,715 sentences during his time in office, and this was more than any other president in history. Of those, more than 550 were serving life sentences.
Obama reviewed all of the cases he commuted, and one of the primary factors in approving a commutation was that the inmate had worked to get an education or job training or otherwise turn their life around. The inmates had to have demonstrated good behavior while in prison, and they must have served at least 10 years of their sentence although there were some exceptions to this requirement. Throughout his time in office, Obama struggled to reform sentencing laws that he felt were unjust. However, he faced resistance from a Republican Congress.
One man whose sentence was commuted received a 22-year sentence after selling drugs to an undercover officer. Although he had obtained marijuana for the sale and his brother had obtained crack cocaine, the man was also charged for the cocaine. He received a longer sentence than his brother because of a criminal history. He will be released in 2019 and must go to a residential drug treatment program.
A person who is charged with drug trafficking, drug possession or other drug-related crimes might face a long sentence. However, there might be ways to avoid this including a plea bargain that allows an individual to plead guilty and receive a lighter sentence. Individuals might also want to plead innocent and go to trial. If evidence in the case was illegally obtained or an individual's rights were violated, that evidence or the entire case might be dismissed.