What to Know about the New Federal Sentencing Guidelines
In August 2023, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted on new provisions to the Sentencing Guidelines. With this decision, many could see their sentence reduced.
The provisions will be applied retroactively. So, the new guidelines may apply to you whether you or someone you know is awaiting sentencing or already serving time.
Here are the key changes and how you could benefit from them:
How Did the Guidelines Change?
The proposed amendments are lengthy, but the changes you need to know about relate to sentencing. The most considerable revision relates to “status points.” Status points increase the sentence range and affect the final sentence. The higher the status points, the higher the penalties and sentencing range.
Previously, zero-point offenders were treated like those with a criminal record. Although they had no status points, their offenses were used to calculate their sentence range. The new amendment limits the overall impact of criminal history on sentencing. Now, offense levels will be reduced by two for zero-point offenders.
This only applies to zero-point offenses with no aggravating factors. As a result, sentences should be shorter for many. In some cases, defendants may not have to serve any jail time.
How Soon Can You Be Resentenced?
The new amendments will go into effect on November 1, 2023. They will apply immediately to those awaiting sentencing. The changes will apply retroactively to those already serving time starting February 1, 2024.
As for why there is a three-month delay, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves, Chair of the Commission, said it “will help ensure that individuals released…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.”
Who Is Eligible for a Reduction?
First-time, non-violent offenders have a much better chance of avoiding jail time with these sentencing revisions. In addition, those convicted of many low-level drug offenses and white-collar crimes could have their sentences reduced.
Mandatory minimum sentences will also happen less often, thanks to these changes.
Sentencing fairness was a main goal of the Commission when implementing these changes, hopefully also reducing recidivism. The Commission estimated in one report that applying changes retroactively would make a big difference to those already serving time:
- “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.”
Does Everyone Qualify?
Defendants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a sentencing reduction. They must not have:
- Any prior criminal history points
- Committed an offense connected to terrorism
- Committed a hate crime
- Committed a sex offense
- Committed a civil rights offense
- Used violence or credible threats of violence in connection with the offense
- Caused death or serious bodily injury because of the offense
- Possessed, received, purchased, transported, transferred, sold, or disposed of a firearm or other dangerous weapon in connection with the offense
- Engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 848
Questions about Federal Sentencing? Call Metcalf Falls Today
Contact a criminal defense attorney today if you or a loved one think you qualify for a sentencing reduction. At Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A., our team can explain the revised sentencing guidelines and determine eligibility. We understand the opportunity this offers, and we’re ready to get to work helping qualifying individuals seek sentencing reductions.