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Supreme Court to review whether drug crime prison sentence was too harsh

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a case in which a woman claims that she was handed an overly long federal prison sentence. The woman was arrested and charged in 2008 with attempted smuggling of immigrants. She did not appear at a court hearing for those charges and, when law enforcement went to arrest her in her home, methamphetamine was found in her residence. After being convicted of the crimes, the woman's attorney asked the judge for the minimum sentence because he said she had suffered childhood sexual abuse, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The federal judge, however, gave her the maximum sentence of just over four years. The judge said that the young woman needed help and that rehab in prison could be the beginning of her recovery. The judge said that she needed time to complete a 500-hour drug treatment program. The woman's attorney appealed to the Supreme Court to review the prison sentence because he says that the judge's reasoning for the longer sentence was against federal law.

In 1984, Congress passed the Sentencing Reform Act, which was meant to keep sentencing guidelines fair and standard and to eliminate the use of prison as a "means of promoting correction and rehabilitation," according to the Los Angeles Times. Congress said with the Act that judges could not use the reason of rehabilitation to give a person a longer sentence.

The justices will decide whether the federal judge in question only gave a longer sentence for the means of rehabilitation. According to discussion during the hearing, the justices will take into account whether the judge had a "dual motive" that factored in preventing future crimes through drug abuse treatment.


Justices hear case on boosting criminals' sentences (Los Angeles Times)

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