United States Sentencing Commission Proposing Reduction in ALL Federal Drug Offenses
The United States Sentencing Commission voted on January 9, 2014 to publish proposed guideline amendments that would lower by two levels the base offense level for all federal drug trafficking crimes. This proposed change would like lower sentences by an average of 11 months and reduce the number of federal prisoners by an estimated 6,550 within five years, according to Commission estimates.
This is a major development for federal drug trafficking defendants and the attorneys who represent them federal court. The U.S. Sentencing Commission, through this proposed amendment, is acknowledging that the current federal sentencing guideline ranges for ALL federal drug trafficking crimes is overly harsh.
At the present time, this proposed amendment in only a proposal and is not in effect at this the present time. The proposed amendments will be subject to a 60-day public comment period running through mid-March. A public hearing on the proposed amendments will be scheduled in Washington, D.C., on March 13. If the proposed amendment is adopted by congress, I would expect that it would become official in November 2014. The Commission would have the authority to make the amendment retroactive although it is unclear if they will.
It is imperative that any federal drug trafficking defendant facing a sentencing hearing raise this issue at sentencing and request a two-level downward departure or variance based on the proposed amendment.
If you have been charged with a federal drug trafficking offense or are presently awaiting sentencing for a federal drug trafficking offense, contact Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, PLLC to discuss how this amendment may affect your case.
Michael R. Bartish is a founding member of Springstead Bartish & Borgula Law, PLLC located in Grand Rapids and Fremont, Michigan.