With drug crime penalties now reduced, attention turns to sentences for white-collar crime

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

The federal panel that sets sentencing policy eased penalties this year for potentially tens of thousands of drug prisoners. Now defense lawyers hope white-collar criminals could be next in line to benefit.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission will vote Thursday on priorities for the coming year.

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Lawyers who have long pushed for changes to the economic crime guidelines say a window to act opened once the commission cleared a major priority from its agenda by cutting sentencing guideline ranges for nonviolent drug dealers. The commission has already expressed interest in examining punishments for white-collar crime. The Justice Department, though not advocating wholesale changes, has said it welcomes a review.

It's unclear what action the commission will take, especially given the public outrage at fraudsters and cheats.