Drug War Out?

The funny thing about politicians setting priorities is that they are happy to tell you what they are making more important, but reluctant to mention what they are making less important.  Newly appointed U.S. Attorney for Colorado Troy Eid, husband of Colorado’s newest state supreme court justice, is no exception.

Immigration, exploitation of children over the Internet, and relations with Indian tribes (where violent felonies are usually prosecuted by the U.S. attorney) are in.  But, given the narrow scope of federal criminal practice, this points pretty directly at what must be displaced: firearms and drug prosecutions.In 2005, convictions for federal offenses in Colorado broke down as follows (with national percentages shown in parenthesis):

Drugs 26% (34%)
Immigration 20% (25%)
Firearms 19% (12%)
Fraud and White Collar 16% (14%)
Larceny and Robbery 6% (5%)
Other 12% (10%)

The typical prosecutions in the “other” category, were much less serious than those in identified categories.  Examples of cases in that category would include violations of federal laws related to national parks recently brought against the Rainbow Family which held a massive gathering near Steamboat Springs without a permit earlier this year.

Critics of the federal criminal justice system note that the vast majority of criminal prosecutions for crime that aren’t by their very nature federal in character (like immigration) are overwhelmingly brought in state courts, and that a decision to charge a drug or firearms case in federal court is usually a case of selective prosecution designed to utilize high mandatory minimum sentences that apply to relatively minor offenses under federal law.

The fact that Eid didn’t mention drug prosecutions as a top priority suggests that resources may be shifted from the drug war, which many now see as a failure, to the new hot issue which is immigration.

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Andrew Oh-Willeke

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