Best Federal Criminal Lawyer Michael Leonard explains Sentencing Commission’s vote to allow Amendment regarding Status Points to be applied retroactively. The United States Sentencing Commission (“Commission”) has taken action that may directly impact – and lower – the sentences of thousands of federal inmates who are currently incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”).
On August 24, 2023, the Commission voted to authorize Federal Court Judges to reduce sentences for certain eligible detainees, beginning February 1, 2024, by applying an Amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines retroactively. The background to that vote arises out of the Commission’s April 2023 proposed Amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines (“Guidelines”), including the Amendment known as 821. Amendment 821, which is expected to take effect in November 2023, limits the impact of Status Points under Section 4A1.1 of the Guidelines.
Status Points refers to the 2 points that are added to a defendant’s Criminal History category if the defendant committed the federal offense he/she was charged with “while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or escape status.” By way of one example only, a federal criminal defendant who was still on probation for a State Court conviction for armed robbery and who committed a federal drug offense during that period of probation, would have two points added to his/her Criminal History.
However, in 2022, the Commission found, by way of a lengthy Report, that the likelihood of a federal defendant being re-arrested after serving his or her federal sentence did not increase from a statistical percentage in any meaningful way whether the Defendant had been assessed that extra two points or not. Accordingly, Amendment 821 would eliminate that 2 points increase.
In addition, Amendment 821 creates a new Guideline, at Section 4C1.1, which decreases, by two levels, the Offense Level, for federal defendants who did not receive any Criminal History points and whose charged offense did not involve certain specific aggravating factors.
The significance of the August 24, 2023 Commission vote is that those particular Amendments will be applied retroactively. In other words, federal defendants who have already been sentenced, and who are serving those sentences within the BOP, will be able to take advantage of Amendment 821. If the Commission had not voted to retroactively apply Amendment 821, then only future federal defendants would have been able to obtain a reduction in their sentence as a result of that Amendment.
This is a big development for federal detainees because the Commission itself estimates that “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,” and “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 retroactive application of Amendment 821, however, is begin delayed. Thus, per the Commission’s vote, federal court Judge “can begin considering petitions for sentence reductions and could order a reduced term of imprisonment effective February 1, 2024 or later.”
Leonard Trial Lawyers and other federal defense attorneys can expect to bring a great number of sentence reduction motions as a result of all of these developments.
Written by Michael Leonard
Leonard Trial Lawyers
August 27, 2023