In the 1980s, Joe Biden was a senator pushing for War on Drugs policies that severely punished drug offenders, often and especially minorities. During that same period, his son Hunter was arrested on drug charges — and ultimately faced no consequences, according to the Washington Examiner.
Hunter was arrested in 1988 in New Jersey for possession of a controlled substance. Instead of going through the typical legal process for such charges, he was allowed to participate in a pre-trial intervention program, and the charge was expunged from his record.
That experience with his son did not seem to alter Joe Biden's perspective on drug offenders, as he voted for mandatory minimum sentences for first time crack cocaine offenders just months afterward. The Examiner's Alana Goodman and Joseph Simonson report:
Five months after his son escaped a sentence and had his possession charge kept secret, Biden voted for the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, which made crack cocaine, often used by poor, black offenders, the only drug with a mandatory minimum penalty for a first offense of simple possession.
But while many minorities were imprisoned for minor drug offenses, the wealthy, white Hunter Biden was allowed to participate in a state diversionary program called pretrial intervention. The program allowed first offenders to "avoid a trial and having the stigma accompanying a guilty verdict," according to the Rubinstein Law Firm in New Jersey.
The next year, Biden emphasized the need for holding drug dealers accountable in a 1989 speech responding to then-President George H.W. Bush.
"We have to hold every drug user accountable," Biden said. "If there were no drug users, there would be no appetite for drugs and there would be no market for them."
Biden then introduced a bill in 1990 that established "military-style boot camp-style prisons" for people under the age of 25 who were convicted of possession of controlled substances. Hunter was 18 at the time of his arrest.
Despite a nearly life-long struggle with drug abuse, the 1988 arrest was the only time Hunter was ever charged with a drug offense.