The Corner

Congress, Not DOJ, Should Address Minimum Sentences

“The Justice Department,” reports the Huffington Post, “will avoid charging certain low-level and nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that carry mandatory minimums.” The change in DOJ policy will allow some defendants to avoid what Attorney General Eric Holder called “draconian mandatory-minimum sentences.”

Sounds reasonable enough, but it raises the question of why the Justice Department should involve itself in the prosecution of “low-level” crimes in the first place. When the indictment reads United States vs. Joe Dokes, shouldn’t we expect Mr. Dokes’s conduct to have been sufficiently egregious to warrant federal prosecution? It often seems to me that the criteria by which assistant U.S. attorneys in Los Angeles evaluate potential prosecutions are ephemeral, shifting with the ebb and flow of cases so as to keep the office busy, but not too busy.

And as for those “draconian” minimum sentences, isn’t this a matter for Congress to resolve? Isn’t Mr. Holder’s announced plan just the latest of this administration’s many efforts to ignore the laws as they are written?

If the laws need to be changed then by all means change them, but do not pretend they don’t exist or that you are not bound by them.

— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber.


Jack Dunphy served with the Los Angeles Police Department for more than 30 years. Now retired from the LAPD, he works as a police officer in a neighboring city. Jack Dunphy is his nom de cyber.

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