TWO-LEVEL REDUCTION IN DRUG GUIDELINES WILL BE RETROACTIVE

You won’t believe this! Today, the Sentencing Commission single handedly created a tidal wave of sentencing litigation in drug cases. You’re all aware of the across-the-board two-level guideline reduction in drug cases that takes effect on November 1, 2014. Thanks to the leadership and vision of AG Holder, since March 2014, AUSA’s have supported the application of this two-level reduction in all drug cases sentenced before the formal adoption and implementation of the guideline.

This guideline change raises the question about what happens to those drug defendants sentenced before March 2014? This question was answered definitively today when the Sentencing Commission announced that this guideline change would be retroactively applied to all drug offenders currently serving a sentence who haven’t received this benefit. However, like all good news, there are caveats. First, if a judge finds that the early release of the inmate will cause a danger to the public, then the reduction will be denied. In making this judgment, judges will focus on the inmate’s institutional behavior, aggravating facts of the case, and the inmate’s prior record. The final caveat is that this reduction will not take effect until November 2015. That way, all actors in the federal criminal justice system can prepare themselves for the onslaught of new supervisees being released by the BOP.

Now, Congress can always rain on the parade and reject the proposed amendment before November 1, 2014; however, that’s unlikely. Approximately 46,290 inmates are expected to be eligible for the reduction and the average reduction will be roughly 25 months, or 18.8% of the sentence. This will free up 79,740 bed years (a bed year is the equivalent of 1 prisoner occupying a bed for a year).

http://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/news/press-releases-and-news-advisories/press-releases/20140718_press_release.pdf

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