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Court Will Not Expand Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reforms


In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that low-level crack cocaine offenders convicted more than a decade ago cannot seek reduced sentences under a landmark 2018 drug reform law called First Step Act. The justices affirmed the nearly 16-year prison term given to Tarahrick Terry of Florida, who was arrested with 3.9 grams of crack, about the weight of four paper clips, in 2008. At issue was the history of sentencing under the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which established harsh mandatory prison sentences based on the amount of drugs that the defendant possessed or sold. The triggering amount, however, was different for crack cocaine used most often by Black people, and powder cocaine, used most often by whites. The Court said the First Step Act was limited by a technical omission: It left out the lowest rung of offenders.