Maine Legal Group Logo
Main Office
Satellite Office
Consultations by Appointment Only

Obama Commutes Record Number of Federal Drug Sentences

A man with his hands behind his back in handcuffs, representing how one can benefit from calling a Portland criminal defense attorney.

During his time in office, President Obama has taken an increased interest in the plight of America’s criminal justice system. Ever since the 1980s, when state and federal politicians adopted “tough on crime” personas to win voters, our country’s jails have become filled with inmates serving lengthy prison times for nonviolent offenses. Most of these are sentences for drug crimes.

However, having to deal with a Congress that has seemed uninterested in changing things, President Obama has struggled to fix these sentencing provisions that are punishing people beyond what they deserve. Recently, though, he has resorted to another method of easing the pain: The presidential pardon.

President Obama Sets Records for Presidential Pardons

In the past couple of years, President Obama has increasingly resorted to using his presidential power to pardon criminals who have been convicted of nonviolent federal drug offenses. This power, guaranteed by the Constitution in Article II, Section 2, allows the president to wipe out or reduce the sentence of a criminal convicted of a federal crime. The practice had been used sparingly by presidents in the past, but Obama has resurrected it to do what he can, without the approval of the Republican-controlled Congress.

The latest batch of sentences that President Obama commuted came on October 6, 2016, when he commuted the sentences of over 100 more inmates who had been sentenced to lengthy prison times for nonviolent drug offenses. This batch of commuted sentences raises the total of sentences Obama has commuted to 774, which is more than the previous 11 presidents combined.

The use of the presidential pardon power is a new one, for Obama. Out of these 774, 590 of Obama’s commutations were issued in 2016, alone.

Presidential Pardons Only a Temporary Fix

Unfortunately, pardoning convicted criminals who are facing decades behind bars for peddling drugs does not change much, in the long term. It might relieve some of the stress on the overcrowded prison system in the here and now, but it does not change the fact that too many people are being sent into it for nonviolent offenders and held there for most of their adult lives.

A more lasting solution would be to fix the root of the problem: The overly-harsh minimum jail sentences that underlie entirely too many of our nation’s drug laws. Unfortunately, only Congress can do this, and its members don’t seem too keen on ensuring that convicted criminals are only punished in accordance with the crime they’ve committed.

Criminal Defense Attorney William T. Bly

Drug crimes are a unique aspect of our criminal justice system because, taken alone, there is no victim. Despite the fact that no one really suffers directly from someone else’s drug escapade, our laws severely punish people for dealing and possessing countless substances that our politicians have deemed dangerous. These decisions are often made without any scientific evidence in support of them. While President Obama’s attempt to ease the situation by commuting numerous drug-related sentences is a step in the right direction, it is far from the solution that we need.

William T. Bly is a criminal defense attorney in the state of Maine. If you’ve been charged with a drug crime or any other crime, contact his law office online or at (207) 571-8146.


Contact our office to speak with
one of our team members who will set up a confidential consultation to discuss your case.


Great group of people. Managed to get me a favorable outcome from a very bad situation. I would highly recommend this firm if you have legal troubles. Top notch performance!!

Dave Allen

So thankful I chose this team to represent me. They’re the best, hands down. Nathan Hitchcock proved my innocence not once but TWICE, including a trial by jury. I have a family in law enforcement who told me “Bill Bly and his team are the best. If I would recommend anyone, it would be them.”

Brandon Albert





Ready to Get Started? Get In Touch With Us Today!

If you are facing criminal charges in Maine, the attorneys at The Maine Criminal Defense Group are here to help. Call our office to speak with one of our team members, who will discuss your case with you and set up a consultation with one of our attorneys.

Get to Know Our Group
Maine Legal Group

We are a boutique law firm, and we stand out by prioritizing our clients’ well-being. At The Maine Legal Group, our experienced team offers personalized attention in both criminal defense and divorce cases.

The Maine Criminal Defense Group

The Maine Criminal Defense Group adeptly handles all areas of criminal defense practice, including experienced and skilled legal representation for state and federal charges.

The Maine Divorce Group

The Maine Divorce Group empowers individuals skillfully navigating divorce with compassionate guidance, ensuring a brighter future through the challenges of the process.