New Changes to Federal Sentencing Guidelines: How They Could Impact You
On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Federal Charges on Tuesday, October 10, 2023
On August 24, 2023, the United States Sentencing Commission approved the retroactive application of two significant provisions of the Sentencing Guidelines. The recent changes expanded eligibility for sentencing reductions in many cases.
The new guidelines could apply to your situation. You or a loved one could be waiting for sentencing. You might have already been sentenced. Here’s what you need to know about these changes and how to take advantage of them.
What Are the Biggest Changes?
The full text of the proposed amendments spans hundreds of pages. The most significant changes about sentencing were made to Chapter Four. The new amendment adjusts how criminal history is gauged using “status points.” These points increase the sentencing range and affect the ultimate sentence. Crimes with higher status points will garner higher penalties.
“Zero-point offenders” are offenders with no criminal history points. Under the old rules, these defendants were treated like those with criminal histories to calculate the sentencing guideline range.
The revised guidelines have introduced a cap on how much a defendant’s previous criminal record can influence their sentencing. The change knocks the offense level down by two for zero-point offenders whose offenses did not involve aggravating factors. The revision aims to reduce the length of sentences for many offenders. The change may help offenders avoid jail sentences altogether in some cases.
Who Benefits from the New Rules?
The revision could reduce a sentence significantly. White-collar crimes or low-level drug offenses sentences could be reduced by months or years. First-time offenders would also benefit greatly. The amendment expands eligibility for defendants to avoid mandatory minimum sentencing in some drug cases. The revisions advise courts to consider sentences without jail time for defendants who receive the adjustment.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission believes applying these changes retroactively will increase fairness in sentencing. In its July 2023 Impact Analysis, the Commission estimated that retroactive application would impact currently incarcerated individuals in the following ways:
- “11,495 incarcerated individuals will have a lower sentencing range under Part A of Amendment 821 relating to “Status Points” with a possible sentence reduction of 11.7%, on average.
- 7,272 incarcerated individuals would be eligible for a lower sentencing range based upon the established criteria under Part B of Amendment 821 relating to “Zero-Point Offenders” with a possible sentence reduction of 17.6%, on average.”
This update marks a crucial step toward equitable sentencing and reducing recidivism by applying the revision both retroactively and to those currently serving sentences.
Are There Exclusions for Updated Sentencing?
Not all defendants would meet the requirements for a sentencing reduction under the new rules. To qualify for the two-level reduction, defendants must not have:
- Any prior criminal history points.
- Received a terrorism adjustment under § 3A1.4.
- Used violence or credible threats of violence in connection with the offense.
- Caused death or serious bodily injury because of the offense.
- Committed a sex offense.
- Personally caused substantial financial hardship.
- Possessed, received, purchased, transported, transferred, sold, or disposed of a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induced another person to) in connection with the offense.
- Committed a civil rights offense covered under § 2H1.1 (Offenses Involving Individual Rights).
- Committed a hate crime.
- Received an adjustment under § 3A1.1 (Hate Crime Motivation or Vulnerable Victim), § 3A1.5 (Serious Human Rights Offense), or § 3B1.1 (Aggravating Role).
- Engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 848.
When Do the Updates Take Effect?
The new amendments take effect on November 1, 2023. They will apply to defendants who have not been sentenced. On February 1, 2024, the changes will apply retroactively to those who are currently incarcerated.
U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, Chair of the Commission, said “the 3-month delay will help ensure that individuals released based on our decision today receive the benefit of reentry programs and transitional services essential to support their successful reentry to society, which at the same time promotes public safety.”
Questions about Federal Sentencing? Call Randall & Stump, PLLC Today
The newly revised sentencing guidelines offer hope to thousands of defendants who could qualify for a sentencing reduction. You or your loved one could be one of them.
Randall & Stump, PLLC will assist defendants and their families in applying for sentence reductions for those who qualify. Our team is prepared to answer any questions you have about the revised sentencing guidelines and how they could apply to your case.