Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill June 14 that would radically increase mandatory minimum prison sentences for anyone furnishing any controlled substance, including marijuana, to a minor or to anyone who has been in drug treatment before. It would also create mandatory minimum life sentences for a second offense, as well as creating mandatory minimum sentences for furnishing drugs in a designated "drug-free zone."
Under current federal law, distribution to a minor carries a one-year mandatory minimum sentence; Sensenbrenner's bill would raise that to 10 years. Similarly, drug sales within a "drug-free zone" currently nets a mandatory minimum one-year sentence; Sensenbrenner's bill would raise that to five years. It also expands the definition of "drug-free zones" from schools, college campuses, and video arcade facilities (!?) to include "public library, or public or private daycare facility," and drug treatment facilities.
The bill would also order the US Sentencing Commission to make appropriate adjustments in its sentencing guidelines. Telling the Sentencing Commission and federal judges what to do is familiar business for Rep. Sensenbrenner, who helped ensure the passage last year of the much-criticized Feeney Amendment, which restricts federal judges' ability to grant downward departures from the harsh federal sentencing guidelines.
But, hey, don't say Sensenbrenner lacks compassion. The bill also includes relief for snitches or, in Sensenbrenner's language, a provision "assuring limitation on applicability of statutory minimums to persons who have done everything they can to assist the government."
The bill, which is euphemistically titled "Defending America's Most Vulnerable: Safe Access to Drug Treatment and Child Protection Act of 2004" (H.R. 4547), so far has no cosponsors. To read the bill online, go to http://www.thomas.loc.gov and type in "H.R. 4547" in the search box. Visit http://www.famm.org/si_federal_sentencing_sensenbrenner_06_29_04.htm for an analysis by Families Against Mandatory Minimums.