U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to get tough on crime, and so far he is carrying out his promise. Last week, AG Sessions sent out a memo instructing federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” when charging crimes.
Although LauraLaw focuses on criminal defense at the state level (where the vast majority of crimes are prosecuted), policy changes on the federal level set the stage for changes in individual states.
AG Sessions’s memo states a policy of strict enforcement and points out that serious offenses generally carry mandatory minimum sentences, which should be followed. This is a notable shift from the position of his predecessor under the Obama Administration, Eric Holder, who encouraged leniency in prosecuting low-level, non-violent drug crimes. Under the strict enforcement policy, a federal prosecutor would need to get approval before charging a lesser crime instead of the most serious offense possible.
So, what does this mean for criminal prosecution in Illinois? Well, first we can expect to see a rise in crimes charged, specifically drug crimes, in federal court. Historically, “tough on crime” or “zero tolerance” policies led to a rise in the prison population. Also, these policies tend to trickle down to a state level.
On that note, it will be interesting to see what specific changes this federal trend brings to Cook County. This author’s main concern is that these strict enforcement policies will change the way plea deals are offered or mitigating circumstances are considered. Of course, that is a conversation for another time.
Nevertheless, if you, a friend, or a loved one are under investigation or have been charged with a crime, contact us here at LauraLaw, before court is in session.