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Sentencing Commission Stats Show Steady Drop in Federal Prosecutions for Marijuana Trafficking

The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently released statistics reflecting trends in federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking. The stats reflect that, since 2016, the number of federal marijuana trafficking cases has significantly and consistently decreased. The stats also broke down the number of offenders in BOP custody for marijuana, how many received downward variances, and other trends.

DOJ Announces Support for Scaling Back Crack-Cocaine Sentencing Disparities

Late last month, the Department of Justice submitted written testimony to the U.S. Senate “urging Congress to pass legislation to permanently end the sentencing disparities between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The DOJ stated that the sentencing disparity, established in the 1980s, was based on “misguided policy” and “misinformation.” The DOJ further noted that 87.5% of people in federal prison serving time for crack offenses were black. Senator Grassley issued a written statement in support of reforming federal drug laws but criticized the DOJ for not providing a live witness.

U.S. Sentencing Commission Releases “Compassionate Release Data Report”

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has released data reflecting the number of “compassionate release” motions that have been granted during the COVID-19 pandemic (21%). The report breaks down the data by showing how many were granted and denied by district and by the year when the inmate’s original sentence was imposed, as well as other information.

Ninth and Eleventh Circuits Split Over Amended Safety Valve Relief

The Eleventh Circuit and Ninth Circuit created a circuit split concerning the proper interpretation of the safety valve under 18 USC 3553(f), particularly as it was amended by the First Step Act. The courts disagreed over the proper interpretation of the word “and” in the list of requirements a defendant must meet for their criminal history to allow them to qualify for the safety valve. The Ninth Circuit’s interpretation would allow far more defendants qualify.

Eleventh Circuit Creates Circuit Split on Standard for Sentence Reductions–holds district courts have limited discretion to grant.

The Eleventh Circuit became the first, and so far the only, circuit court to hold that district courts considering sentence reductions motions under 3582(c)(1)(A) are bound by the criteria under USSG 1B1.13. To date, seven other circuits have held that district courts have discretion to determine if an inmate has presented extraordinary and compelling reasons warranting a reduction. District courts in the Eleventh Circuit now have much less discretion to reduce an inmate’s sentence.

U.S. Sentencing Commission Releases Data on Sentence Reductions

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has issued a “Retroactivity Data Report,” reflecting the data showing how many inmates have had their sentences reduced under the First Step Act’s retroactive sentencing provisions for crack-cocaine offenders. The data includes a break down by criminal history category, whether the offender had a firearm, and the average reduction.

President Biden Announces Six More Federal Judicial Nominations

The Biden administration announced the nominations of six more federal judges. The nominations are for the 1st, 2nd, and 10th appellate circuits as well as the three district courts. President Biden has nominated 19 judges, and none of yet been confirmed.

UPDATED: Tracking the Capitol Riot Cases

The Department of Justice has obtained its second conviction in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol and its aftermath. A jury in the Eastern District of New York found a defendant guilty of threatening to assault U.S. officials based on a video he posted after January 6 called “Kill Your Senators” and advocating for protestors to return to the Capitol with guns. The conviction follows the first guilty plea stemming from the riots, with a member of the Oath Keepers pleading guilty two weeks ago to obstructing an official proceeding and entering a restricted building with a dangerous weapon.

New BOP Memo Expands Eligibility for Home Confinement

The DOJ recently issued a memorandum to BOP facilities expanding the number of inmates who are eligible for release to home confinement under the CARES Act. While neither the BOP nor the DOJ have published the memo yet, Keri Blakinger of the Marshall Project has obtained a copy of the memo and confirmed its authenticity with the BOP. Among other things, the new criteria allows more inmates with low-level disciplinary issues or Low PATTERN scores to obtain release to home confinement.

DEA Releases its “National Drug Threat Assessment” for 2020

The DEA has released its “National Drug Threat Assessment” for the Year 2020. The report contains an exhaustive review of topics such as the different sources for different drugs imported into the U.S., the price and purity levels of several controlled substances, data regarding where most drugs are trafficked or seized, consumption patterns, and other information that can be helpful to defense attorneys in drug cases.

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