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Fair Sentencing Act

On July 28th, the House passed the Fair Sentencing Act (S. 1789) by voice vote to reduce the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine and increase criminal penalties for serious drug offenders. The President signed the bill into law on August 3rd.

Under current federal law, possessing five grams of crack cocaine is subject to the same mandatory minimum sentence as selling 500 grams of powder cocaine.  This creates a 100:1 crack-powder sentencing disparity. The bipartisan U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Judicial Conference of the United States both support reducing the crack-powder disparity with the Sentencing Commission writing that reducing the disparity 'would dramatically improve the fairness of the federal sentencing system.” The Fair Sentencing Act (S. 1789) establishes an 18:1 crack-powder ratio, which reflects a bipartisan compromise that was reached in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Key Provisions:

  • Reduces the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine from 100:1 to 18:1, with a 5-year mandatory minimum for 28 grams of crack cocaine and a 5-year mandatory minimum for 500 grams of powder cocaine.
  • Eliminates the mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine (the only mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of a drug).
  • Significantly increases fines for convicted major drug traffickers.
  • Significantly increases sentences for drug offenders involved in aggravating factors, including bribing law enforcement; maintaining an establishment for drug manufacturing or distribution; involving minors, seniors, or vulnerable victims in the offense; importing drugs; intimidating witnesses; tampering with evidence; or obstructing justice. 

Read the bill»