The Assumptions Relied Upon by Congress When it Passed the Mandatory Minimums for Crack Cocaine Offenses Have Proven False. The Justifications for the Sentencing Disparity Between Powder Cocaine and Crack Cocaine are not Supported by Fact or Reason

As I have previously discussed, Congress justified Draconian mandatory minimum sentences for federal crack cocaine offenses upon their mistaken belief that, among other things, crack cocaine was more dangerous than powder cocaine because it was believed to be more addictive and create more violence than powder cocaine; that it was more harmful than powder cocaine; that it was popular with teenagers; and that its low cost made it more accessible and popular.

These concerns and beliefs have proven false. As observed by Congressman Alcee Hastings (D Fl): “Rather than waging war on drugs, [the mandatory minimums for crack offenses] waged war on America’s poor and minorities.” Rep. Hastings also noted that the crack mandatory minimums were “rooted in propaganda rather than empirical data.” (See Congressman Alcee Hastings’ website )

The reality is, the mandatory minimums are not being imposed on the “major” and “serious” suppliers of crack cocaine but instead the majority of crack cocaine defendants are small-scale, street-level dealers. The 100:1 ratio disproportionately impacts far more low-level traffickers than it does the intended targets of the ratio. As observed by the Supreme Court, “the 100-to-1 ratio can lead to the anomalous result that retail crack dealers get longer sentences than the wholesale drug distributors who supply them the powder cocaine from which their crack is produced.” See Kimbrough v. U.S., 128 S.Ct. 558, 564 (U.S.,2007).

Indeed, both the Sentencing Commission and the United States Supreme Court have acknowledged that real world experiences have shown us that the reasoning and assumptions that led to the creation of the 100:1 ratio have proven false.

Tilem & Campbell has presented the above arguments in an appeal currently pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of the crack v. powder cocaine disparity. We are arguing, among other things, that there is absolutely no rational basis to incarcerate those convicted of crack cocaine offenses (who are overwhelmingly African-American) significantly longer than those convicted of powder cocaine offenses (who are overwhelmingly Caucasian) involving similar weight.

If you or a loved one needs legal representation for an upcoming sentencing hearing, sentence appeal, or needs legal advise any any federal or New York criminal case contact one of the experienced criminal attorneys at Tilem & Campbell toll free at 1-888-ANY-CRIME or visit us on the web at

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