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Supreme Court Will Hear Cases on Fairness in Drug Sentencing

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The Supreme Court will hear two cases involving people who committed cocaine-related crimes before the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 took effect, but who were not sentenced until afterwards. The Fair Sentencing Act reduced the disparity of sentences between people who sell crack cocaine and those who sell the powder form of the drug.

The New York Times reports before the law took effect, people convicted of crack-related crimes received sentences 100 times as long as those who were convicted of selling cocaine in powder form. The law reduced the disparity to 18 to one for those who committed crimes after the law took effect.

The Supreme Court will consider what should happen to people who committed their offenses before the law took effect, but were not sentenced until afterwards.

In one case, a man who pleaded guilty in June 2010 to possessing 5.5 grams of crack cocaine in 2008 with the intent to distribute it was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Under the new law, the mandatory sentence would not have been given for fewer than 28 grams, and the man probably would have received a sentence of three or four years, the newspaper reports.

In the second case, a man was convicted in 2009 of selling 53 grams of crack cocaine, and was sentenced under the old law in December 2010, after the new law had taken effect.

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