Ashcroft Limits Prosecutor Discretion

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by RMJL, Sep 26, 2003.

  1. Ashcroft Limits Prosecutor Discretion
    Thurs, Sept 25, 2003

    Continuing his crusade to toughen federal sentencing guidelines, Attorney General John Ashcroft has requested that federal prosecutors regularly seek the harshest possible charges and penalties. According to the Associated Press, Ashcroft sent a memo to all 94 U.S. attorneys' offices instructing that plea bargains only be pursued in limited, specific circumstances.

    "In virtually all cases, prosecutors must bring the toughest charges available, yielding the toughest penalties under the sentencing guidelines," Ashcroft said in a speech Monday in Milwaukee.

    Restricting plea bargains will severely limit sentencing options for prosecutors. Critics point out that removing a defendant's option to plea bargain will force more defendants into costly, time-consuming trials while harsher sentences will add more nonviolent drug offenders to already overcrowded prisons.

    The policy change is the latest example of Ashcroft's attempts to bring greater severity and inflexibility to the federal justice system. Earlier this year, Ashcroft instructed government lawyers to document judges who opt to hand out sentences less stringent than federal guidelines and to increase appeals of these so-called ‘softer' sentences.
  2. Newsbrief: Ashcroft Says No Plea Bargains in Latest Bid to Send America to Prison Forever 9/26/03

    Attorney General John Ashcroft announced this week that he is ordering federal prosecutors to limit the use of plea bargains and to go for the throat in charging and sentencing defendants in criminal cases. The policy shift is only the latest in a series of moves by Ashcroft this year to make federal prison sentences harsher and to restrain federal judges who increasingly balk at sending low-level offenders to prison for decades. "Federal prosecutors must charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses that are supported by the facts," Ashcroft said in a memo to US attorneys released Monday. "Charges should not be filed simply to exert leverage to get a plea."

    Under the new Ashcroft directive, plea bargains would still be permitted, but only if defendants agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations. The new guidelines also generously allow for plea bargains in cases where "the possible maximum sentence is unaffected by the agreement," when it appears the government is losing, or on a case-by-case basis with written approval from a supervisor.

    The move comes on the heels of Ashcroft's efforts earlier this year to see the federal death penalty applied more broadly and to order prosecutors to appeal cases where judges have handed down sentences below federal sentencing guidelines. This latest policy shift is sure to further inflame the growing national debate over John Ashcroft's temperament and fitness to serve as Attorney General, a concern held not only by drug reformers and prisoner interest groups, but a growing number of organizations and individuals concerned about Ashcroft's behavior in both the war on drugs and the war on terror.

    The Associated Press reported that when asked about his new policy in Milwaukee on Monday, Ashcroft described his goal as equal justice. "It's important that when the law is broken in Milwaukee, it's attended by the same consequences as when it's broken in Denver," he said.

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