The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that people who committed crack cocaine crimes before more lenient penalties were implemented and received their sentence afterward should benefit from the new rules.
The Fair Sentencing Act, which went into effect in August 2010, reduced the disparity between sentences for crimes committed by crack cocaine and powder cocaine users. This gap has historically affected minorities, African Americans in particular, especially hard.
The two cases involved two men who had been arrested in 2007 and 2008 respectively for selling crack cocaine. They were sentenced after the new law was in place, but did not benefit from it. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the courts should have used the new policy to sentence the men. “We can find no convincing reason why Congress would have wanted these unfair consequences,” said Justice Stephen Breyer.
Civil rights groups praised Thursday’s decision as another step toward eliminating the drug sentencing discrepancy.