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April 30, 2010

US Sentencing Commission posts full text of its significant new guideline amendments

I am very pleased to report that the US Sentencing Commission now has posted on its website the full text of its new "Amendments to the Sentencing Guidelines, Policy Statements, and Official Commentary." Here is how this technical document is officially described:

Pursuant to section 994(p) of title 28, United States Code, the United States Sentencing Commission hereby submits to the Congress the following amendments to the sentencing guidelines and the reasons therefor. As authorized by such section, the Commission specifies an effective date of November 1, 2010, for these amendments.

Though there are a lot of important and interesting aspects to all the amendments, the first five amendments are especially significant and all could be hugely consequential.  Of particular interest because it potentially impacts every federal sentencing proceeding, is the second amendment concerning changes to the language about departures based on certain offender characteristic.  Specifically, the proposed amendment eliminates the guidelines long-standing assertion that certain key offender characteristics are "not ordinarily relevant" to a departure decision.  Now, as this document explains:

As amended, these policy statements generally provide that age; mental and emotional conditions; and physical condition or appearance, including physique, "may be relevant in determining whether a departure is warranted, if [the offender characteristic], individually or in combination with other offender characteristics, is present to an unusual degree and distinguishes the case from the typical cases covered by the guidelines."

Though arguably not too much more than a tweak in how the guidelines call for these offender characteristic to be considered, I suspect many (all?) defense counsel and some (many?) sentencing judges will view this tweak to be very significant in some (many? all?) cases.

April 30, 2010 at 11:56 AM | Permalink


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I don't see that true improvements were made to help Joe Avg...To many you would have to had prior knowledge of the guidelines to qualify for
a break...Its just more of the same... The beatings will continue until the morale improves.
Guidelines don't need tweeking, need to be shredded and written by someone that has had real life experiences, not someone who has spent their entire life in the mindless dribble of politics. Get with the program Congressmen..All show, no go..More wasted time and money...

Posted by: Abe | Apr 30, 2010 12:32:32 PM

All these are small tweaks that many cant even use to support there defendant. The guidelines are the worst thing that could ever happen to sentencing.

If guidelines are prevalent, then it should be tweaked much more. This tweak is almost non-existent.

Posted by: N/A | Apr 30, 2010 3:32:15 PM

Here's a very brief summary of the amendments:

Amendment 1 makes non-imprisonment sentences (and alternatives to incarceration) available at more guideline ranges and allows for departure to accomplish a treatment purpose.
Amendment 2 increases the chance of a Guideline-approved departure based on certain aspects of an individual's history and characteristics.
Amendment 3 allows for a downward departure in 2L1.2 (illegal reentry) cases for cultural assimilation.
Amendment 4 clarifies that departures are not obsolete after Booker.
Amendment 5 eliminates the "recency" criminal history points provision.
Amendment 6 inserts two new criminal statutes into the Guidelines and implements a congressional directive.
Amendment 7 alters the sentencing of organizations, and gives them an incentive to remedy and/or report criminal conduct.
Amendment 8 responds to three Acts of Congress and a regulatory change of upgrading iodine to a List I chemical.
Amendment 9 relates to the Guideline's typos and style.

Posted by: DEJ | Apr 30, 2010 4:57:41 PM

All these are small tweaks that many cant even use to support there defendant. The guidelines are the worst thing that could ever happen to sentencing.

Posted by: thomas sabo | Aug 19, 2011 1:42:47 AM

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