US Sentencing Commission Voted on the 2018 Amendments on April 12, 2018

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) held a vote on the 2018 Proposed Amendments today.  We are somewhat disappointed.

At today’s Public Hearing of the United States Sentencing Commission, (USSC), the Commission voted to approve certain of the Proposed Amendments.  Unfortunately, in terms of reducing  the federal prison population and reducing federal sentences overall, the USSC did very little.  Specifically, they approved the changes to USSG §3E1.1 making it clear that a defendant being sentenced who makes non-frivolous objections to “Relevant Conduct” enhancements should not jeopardize a defendant’s Acceptance of Responsibility adjustment.  This is a positive step and we here at NPSC have worked on many cases where a defendant who made substantive (and legitimate) objections to certain enhancements were threatened with the denial of the 2 or 3-point Acceptance of Responsibility downward adjustment.  Additionally, and most significantly, the Commission did not approve a 1 or 2-point reduction for non-violent first-time offenders. However, it did approve a commentary amendment advising  that courts should alternatives to incarceration for non-violent first-time offenders who are in Category A or B on the Sentencing Table, meaning those with an Adjusted Guideline Level under 12. In addition, the Commission provided for a 4 level increase for “knowingly” distributing fentanyl as  another substance.  During the public hearing there was significant debate as to whether to include a mens rea requirement such as “knowingly” and we happy to see that the Commission opted not to include another “strict liability” enhancement.  A copy of the 2018  Amendments can be found here. As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact NPSC at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com or call 615-696-6153

2018 Guideline Amendments

As previously noted, the United States Sentencing Commission conducted a public hearing on March 14, 2018 on this year’s proposed amendments. Our staff watched the hearing from beginning to end it suggests that it looks very promising to see several significant and beneficial changes this year. The Commission will vote by April 30, 2018 and submit the proposed amendments to Congress,  If Congress does not veto them, they will go into effect on November 1, 2018. It is not yet clear if any of them will be applied retroactively and we will not know that until August 2018.  Of course, if you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com or at 615-696-6153.

United States Sentencing Commission to Hold a Hearing on 2017 Amendments

On March 14, 2018, the United States Sentencing Commission, the federal agency charged with writing and amending the United States Sentencing Guidelines, will hold a hearing on several very significant amendments to the Guidelines.  Of note, the Commission will consider an amendment that could provide a significant benefit to first time federal offenders by providing a 1 or 2 point reduction in their guideline level.  A public hearing will be held on March 14, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. (ET). This hearing will be streamed live. Commissioners will receive testimony on proposed amendments related to Synthetic Drugs and First Offenders/Alternatives to Incarceration. What is not certain at this juncture is whether these amendments, if adopted, will be applied retroactively to federal inmates already sentenced.  Of course, if you have any questions or may need or assistance, please contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com or at 615-696-6153.

Federal Sentencing Commission to Vote on 2018 Amendments

On January 19, 2018, the United States Sentencing Commission will hold a hearing (and hopefully a vote) on the 2018 Amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  A vote in favor could result in significant positive changes to the Guidelines.  National Prison & Sentencing Consultants  and John Webster, its Managing Director, are ecstatic with some of the proposed changes. We believe they will substantially benefit many federal defendants if they are approved.  The most significant proposal would provide lower guideline ranges for “first offenders” generally and increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration for offenders at the lower levels of the Sentencing Table. These new Guidelines would apply if [(1) the defendant did not receive any criminal history points under the rules where the defendant has no prior convictions of any kind. Further, Zone C of the Sentencing Table would be eliminated thus permitting a significantly greater number of defendants to be sentenced to non-custodial sentences such as Residential Re-entry Centers and Home Confinement.  Clearly, these proposals show that the Commission is certainly beginning to look at ways to reduce the number of Americans incarcerated and is beginning to focus on alternatives to prison. Further, the Commission is proposing changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions along with quite a few technical and substantive proposed changes. The changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions will permit a defendant to make non-frivolous objections to relevant conduct without losing the acceptance of responsibility adjustment pursuant to USSG §3E.1.1(a) and (b).  Right now, it is not clear whether any or all of the substantive amendments will apply retroactively to inmates already sentenced. Overall, we at NPSC having faced many of these issues believe this to be a very positive proposed amendmentd.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at 615-696-6153 or at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com

Federal Sentencing Commission to Vote on 2018 Amendments

On January 19, 2018, the United States Sentencing Commission will hold a hearing (and hopefully a vote) on the 2018 Amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  A vote in favor could result in significant positive changes to the Guidelines.  National Prison & Sentencing Consultants  and John Webster, its Managing Director, are ecstatic with some of the proposed changes. We believe they will substantially benefit many federal defendants if they are approved.  The most significant proposal would provide lower guideline ranges for “first offenders” generally and increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration for offenders at the lower levels of the Sentencing Table. These new Guidelines would apply if [(1) the defendant did not receive any criminal history points under the rules where the defendant has no prior convictions of any kind. Further, Zone C of the Sentencing Table would be eliminated thus permitting a significantly greater number of defendants to be sentenced to non-custodial sentences such as Residential Re-entry Centers and Home Confinement.  Clearly, these proposals show that the Commission is certainly beginning to look at ways to reduce the number of Americans incarcerated and is beginning to focus on alternatives to prison. Further, the Commission is proposing changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions along with quite a few technical and substantive proposed changes. The changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions will permit a defendant to make non-frivolous objections to relevant conduct without losing the acceptance of responsibility adjustment pursuant to USSG §3E.1.1(a) and (b).  Right now, it is not clear whether any or all of the substantive amendments will apply retroactively to inmates already sentenced. Overall, we at NPSC having faced many of these issues believe this to be a very positive proposed amendmentd.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at 615-696-6153 or at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com

2017 Proposed Preliminary United States Sentencing Guidelines Changes Announced–then Cancelled

UPDATE MAY 5, 2017: Sadly, the United States Sentencing Commission has decided that there will no  amendments to the federal Sentencing Guidelines for 2017. Although the following was proposed, they can not and will not even be considered until at least 2018, if at all. A description of the proposed amendments is below but no such amendment will be made this year.

On December 9, 2016 the United States Sentencing Commission published its annual Preliminary Proposed Amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.  These are preliminary and are subject to public comments and hearings between now and May 2017.  However, NPSC and John Webster, its Managing Director, are ecstatic with some of the proposed changes. We believe they will substantially benefit many federal defendants if they are approved.  The most significant proposal would provide lower guideline ranges for “first offenders” generally and increase the availability of alternatives to incarceration for offenders at the lower levels of the Sentencing Table. These new Guidelines would apply if [(1) the defendant did not receive any criminal history points under the rules where the defendant has no prior convictions of any kind. Further, Zone C of the Sentencing Table would be eliminated thus permitting a significantly greater number of defendants to be sentenced to non-custodial sentences such as Residential Re-entry Centers and Home Confinement.  Clearly, these proposals show that the Commission is certainly beginning to look at ways to reduce the number of Americans incarcerated and is beginning to focus on alternatives to prison. Further, the Commission is proposing changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions along with quite a few technical and substantive proposed changes. The changes to the Acceptance of Responsibility provisions will permit a defendant to make non-frivolous objections to relevant conduct without losing  the acceptance of responsibility adjustment pursuant to USSG  section 3E.1.1(a) and (b).  Again we at NPSC having faced this issue many times, believe this to be a very positive proposed amendment.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact National Prison & Sentencing Consultants at 615-696-6153 or at help@nationalprisonconsultants.com