Sentencing Commission Considers “Retroactivity” of Proposed Guidelines Amendments

The Federal Docket

May 16, 2023

Yesterday, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued a memorandum regarding the amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines that it submitted to Congress last month. The 48-page memorandum, including its appendices, deals with which, if any, of these amendments should be retroactive in effect to offenders that have already been sentenced under the old Guidelines.

Specifically, the Commission is considering whether two amendments should be retroactive in particular– 1) the amendment that reduces the potential criminal history points assessed for defendants who commit their offense while under another sentence, and 2) the amendment providing a two-level downward adjustment for defendants with zero criminal history points.

Part I of the memo summarizes the 2023 criminal history amendments being considered. Part II of the memo provides background on the statutory and guidelines policy statements governing retroactivity of amendments. Part III discusses the potential impact of retroactivity. Part IV provides a detailed overview of the Commission’s analysis.

In its conclusion, the Commission estimates that 11,49 offenders in BOP custody would have faced a lower sentencing range under the new amendment reducing the potential criminal history points for defendants who committed their offense while under another sentence. The average sentence reduction, based on those potential lower Guidelines ranges, would be 11.7, and 2,000 inmates would be eligible for release by November 1, 2023, when the amendments are slated to go into effect.

Additionally, the Commission estimates that 7,272 inmates in BOP custody would have a lower Guidelines range if re-sentenced under the amendment providing a 2-level downward departure for having zero criminal history points, with an average reduction of 17.6%. An estimated 1,200 offenders would be eligible for release by November 1, 2023 if the amendment is made retroactive.

Click here to read the USSC’s memorandum.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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