Sessions orders tougher sentences in DOJ memo

Sessions orders tougher sentences in DOJ memo
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRoy Moore sues Alabama over COVID-19 restrictions GOP set to release controversial Biden report Trump's policies on refugees are as simple as ABCs MORE is rolling back Obama-era Justice Department charging and sentencing guidelines, instructing federal prosecutors to charge defendants with the most serious crime possible.

"It is a core principle that prosecutors should charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense," Sessions wrote in a memo sent Thursday night. "This policy affirms our responsibility to enforce the law, is moral and just, and produces consistency."

The memo marks a drastically different approach to drug-related offenses than the one taken under former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump's rally risk | Biden ramps up legal team | Biden hits Trump over climate policy Biden campaign forming 'special litigation' team ahead of possible voting battle Pompeo, Engel poised for battle in contempt proceedings MORE, who had ordered federal prosecutors in 2013 to refrain from charging defendants with certain offenses that could see long mandatory minimum sentences.

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"This policy fully utilizes the tools Congress has given us," Sessions wrote. "By definition, the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences." 

Sessions's memo marks the administration's first major criminal justice effort to crackdown on drug crime, a promise touted by President Trump on the campaign trail.

Trump billed himself as the "law-and-order candidate" and often railed against what he dubbed anti-law enforcement policies by the Obama administration.

The new guidelines instruct prosecutors to "disclose to the sentencing court all facts that impact the sentencing guidelines or mandatory minimum sentences" — a significant departure from Holder's policies, which directed prosecutors not to disclose the quantity of drugs to courts to avoid strict mandatory minimum sentences unless the defendant was a gang leader or repeat criminal offender.