Criminal Justice Bill Lowers Punishment For Smuggling Drugs In Submarines

Photo: REUTERS/David Mercado

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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The bipartisan Senate criminal justice reform bill includes a provision lowering the mandatory minimum punishment for smuggling drugs in submarines.

The bill, S.R 2123, has received support from President Obama and Charles and David Koch, and has co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle.

The bill lowers the minimum sentencing requirement from 10 years to five years for those convicted under sections “401 or 406 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841 and 846) or section 1010 or 1013 of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 960 and 963).”

These laws deal with the imports and exports of mass quantities of drugs. One of these laws specifically talks about the importation of more than 5 kilograms of cocaine aboard a vessel.

In March, U.S Customs stopped a “narco sub” carrying 12,800 pounds of cocaine worth nearly $200 million.

“Inexplicably, the bill now adds leniency for those who smuggle drugs into the United States by boats and submarines,” a coalition of attorneys and law enforcement officials wrote in a letter earlier this month. “Drug smugglers using vessels in international waters are routinely very serious traffickers moving substantial amounts of drugs.”

The letter was signed by leaders from the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, Law Enforcement Action Network and National Narcotics Officers’ Associations’ Coalition.

Republican Alabama Sen. [crscore]Jeff Sessions[/crscore] singled out the provision in a statement Thursday. “The revised bill adds a provision to shorten mandatory minimums for drug traffickers who smuggle drugs into the U.S. by boat or submarine. These criminals have never been eligible for such leniency and are rarely if ever U.S. citizens. This provision has already been tagged as the ‘Scarface” provision.”

A cosponsor, Democratic Vermont Sen. [crscore]Patrick Leahy[/crscore], touted an endorsement from the National District Attorneys Association at a Thursday press conference. The group wrote that the bill “strikes the appropriate balance between targeting the highest level drug traffickers plaguing our communities, while simultaneously decreasing crime rates and addressing the burgeoning prison population.”

The Thursday press conference was to unveil changes to the bill designed to quell fears of some conservatives who worried it would release violent criminals. The law now has 37 cosponsors and future changes to it are unlikely. (RELATED:Bipartisan Senate Bill Risks Freeing Dangerous Criminals)

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, the bill’s sponsor, said, “we’ve taken that same proven strategy of good-faith negotiations to our Senate colleagues to fine tune and improve this proposal. In doing so, the bill has gained even broader bipartisan support.”

“I’m grateful for the work of the other authors and all of my colleagues for their willingness to come together on a historic bill worth of consideration by the full Senate,” Grassley, a Republican, added.