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Great segment by John Oliver on mandatory minimum sentences.
Ridiculously long sentences are not a great deterrent to crime. Prison sentences are a lot like p*nises: if they're used correctly, even a short one can do the trick."
(Asterisk used to avoid inviting spam.) As he points out:
Everyone has agreed that mandatory minimum rules were a mistake, and we cannot have a system where people are continuing to pay for that mistake."
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The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has released the 2014 Wiretap Report.
The number of federal and state wiretaps authorized in 2014 decreased 1 percent from 2013. The most serious offense under investigation in 89 percent of all applications for intercepts was illegal drugs.
DEA wiretaps have tripled in the last decade, and it appears the DEA is increasingly filing requests in state courts, bypassing Title III and federal courts.
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The increase is the biggest in almost a decade and takes coca production back to levels not seen since 2009. The findings come on the heels of a separate U.S. government survey showing production shot up 39 percent in 2014.
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DEA wiretaps have tripled over the last nine years. Of particular concern: It is increasingly bypassing the Title III requirements by applying for wiretaps in state courts.
USA Today reports (no link due to autoplay video)
The DEA conducted 11,681 electronic intercepts in the fiscal year that ended in September. Ten years earlier, the drug agency conducted 3,394.
The statistics are here.
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The House of Representatives yesterday approved the fiscal year 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578) on a vote of 242-183. The bill contains $51.4 billion in total discretionary funding,
There were 87 amendments to the bill. These are the ones that passed. [More...]
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Congress finally confirmed Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Sally Yates, nominated by Obama in December for the Deputy AG slot was also confirmed. Lynch is expected to be sworn in on Monday.
Unfortunately, Lynch does not share Eric Holder's views on marijuana legalization.
She told the Senate that she did not support legalization and did not agree with Mr. Obama that marijuana may not be more dangerous than alcohol.
And she supports the Patriot Act, which once again is coming up for renewal.
It remains to be seen whether she withdraws any of Holder's positive changes to DOJ policy. [More...]
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Good news today. Michelle Leonhart is resigning from the DEA. (I'm sure she'd prefer the word retiring.)
Now if we could only retire the DEA.
In related news, a 19 month old baby who was maimed in his crib during a a botched drug raid will get $1 million. His nose and nipple were blown off.
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In November, Alaska voters voted to legalize the personal use and possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The law went into effect today.
Alaska's new law, passed by voters in 2014, means people over age 21 can legally consume small amounts of pot, but individuals are not allowed to sell it or buy it. They are allowed to grow up to six plants and possess up to an ounce of weed. Smoking in public is not allowed.
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The Associated Press has an interesting article on Mexico's recent surge of poppy growing and production of heroin.
The heroin trade is a losing prospect for everyone except the Mexican cartels, who have found a new way to make money in the face of falling cocaine consumption and marijuana legalization in the United States. Once smaller-scale producers of low-grade black tar, Mexican drug traffickers are now refining opium paste into high-grade white heroin and flooding the world's largest market for illegal drugs, using the distribution routes they built for marijuana and cocaine.
Heroin use in the U.S. has risen alongside the crackdown on pain pills. With the pills becoming so controlled and expensive, people have turned to heroin. The U.S. has fewer meth labs since the restrictions on pseudoephedrine were ushered in. But people didn't stop using meth, the production just shifted to Mexico, and the finished product is now shipped here in larger quantities to accommodate demand. [More...]
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I was among those touting Attorney General Eric Holder's press release last week which appeared to be a sea change in federal civil asset forfeiture policy. Next time I'll wait to see the fine print before endorsing a prosecutorial "reform", rather than rely on a press release.
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Update: I should have waited to read the fine print in the actual directive. This is much less a reform than the press release promised. I'll update soon. The directive is far too vague, has too many exceptions, and states it it is prospective only.
AG Eric Holder has put a big dent in the equitable sharing of money, property and car seizures between local cops and the feds. It's the first I'm hearing about it, and it's going to affect a lot of cases.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday barred local and state police from using federal law to seize cash, cars and other property without proving that a crime occurred.
Holder’s action represents the most sweeping check on police power to confiscate personal property since the seizures began three decades ago as part of the war on drugs.
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Eric Holder will announce the Obama Administration's new racial profiling rules next week. There will be curbs on racial profiling by law enforcement, including the DEA.
Exempted will be most of the Department of Homeland Security (TSA, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection)which will still be allowed to use racial profiling at airports and at the border.
Apparently, the plan was also to ban DHS from racial profiling, but they objected and were for the most part exempted. [More...]
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U.S. Justice Department personnel are disguising themselves as Mexican Marines to take part in armed raids against drug suspects in Mexico, according to people familiar with the matter, an escalation of American involvement in battling drug cartels that carries significant risk to U.S. personnel.
A U.S. official says the marshal's participation was approved by high levels of the Mexican Government. The Mexican Embassy in Washington denies that: [More...]
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the DEA and FBI recently catching flak for some of its deceitful investigation techniques. One instance was the FBI's remote installation of spyware on the computer of a teen suspected of making bomb threats to his school in 2007. The purpose was to track the location of the teen and his computer. To pull it off, the FBI wrote a fake AP news article about the suspect and sent it to his my space account. When the teen clicked on it, the spyware was unleashed, allowing the FBI to locate his computer and get a search warrant for his house. The teen confessed and ultimately pleaded guilty. The matter came to light as the result of a reporter's FOIA Request.
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Robert Brownfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, speaking at a foreign press conference in New York on October 9, while discussing the third of the four pillars of global drug policy, said (Full text here):
Things have changed since 1961. We must have enough flexibility to allow us to incorporate those changes into our policies … to tolerate different national drug policies, to accept the fact that some countries will have very strict drug approaches; other countries will legalize entire categories of drugs.
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