January 31, 2014

by David Nachtigall

I came across an article this week, which served as a sad reminder of the state of U.S. drug policy and mandatory minimums. In this case, an individual was sentenced to life without parole for possession of a trace amount of cocaine because of a “three strikes” law. Texas has its own version of a three strikes law under which it deems people who have twice been to prison to be habitual offenders. If a habitual offender is charged with a third degree or higher felony, that person is subject to a statutory minimum punishment of 25 years and up to life in prison if convicted by a judge or jury. To put things in perspective, possession of one gram of cocaine (roughly equivalent to a sugar packet) is a third degree felony in Texas. While Texas does offer parole for drug offenders, subjecting a person to a minimum of 25 years in prison for one gram of cocaine is difficult to justify under any circumstances. Policies that subject drug users to long prison sentences both fail to meaningfully address the underlying social problems with drug abuse and lead to costly swollen prison populations. In the end, these policies disproportionately punish both the drug user and society at large.

– David Nachtigall

© 2021 David A. Nachtigall, Attorney at Law, PLLC