How the New Amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines May Impact Your Federal Case

How the New Amendments to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines May Impact Your Federal Case
Justice scales and gavel

by Derk A. Wadas, Partner, The Collin County Law Group

For the first time in several years, the United States Sentencing Commission has approved amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines. Specifically, the Commission made two changes to Chapter Four of the Guidelines, the chapter that addresses Criminal History. The amended Guidelines may help you or your loved one reduce your offense level or prison sentence, if applied properly, and they are effective as of November 1, 2023.

Elimination of Status Points

First, the Commission eliminated so called “status points,” which are the additional criminal history points given to people who committed the offense for which they are being sentenced “while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or escape status.” Criminal history points will no longer be added for people who have minor criminal history. In the past, “status points” imposed a two-point enhancement, which often resulted in a longer prison sentence. Now, that enhancement will only apply to those with more than 6 criminal history points.

Decrease in Offense Level

Second, Section 4C1.1 of the Guidelines provides a decrease of two levels for people who did not receive any criminal history points under Chapter Four, Part A and whose current offense did not involve specified aggravating factors. In the past, there was no specific deduction from the total offense level just because a person had no criminal history points. This is a favorable change that will result in reduced prison sentences. It may also reduce the total offense level for some people to a range where a probation sentence is appropriate.

The specified aggravating factors that preclude someone from receiving the two-point reduction under 4C1.1 are:

  • Defendant did not receive an adjustment under § 3A1.4 (Terrorism)
  • Defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence in connection with the offense
  • Offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury
  • Instant offense of conviction is not a sex offense
  • Defendant did not personally cause substantial financial hardship
  • Defendant did not possess, receive, purchase, transport, transfer, sell, or otherwise dispose of a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense
  • Instant offense of conviction is not covered by § 2H1.1 (Offenses Involving Individual Rights)
  • Defendant did not receive an adjustment under § 3A1.1 (Hate Crime Motivation or Vulnerable Victim) or § 3A1.5 (Serious Human Rights Offense)
  • Defendant did not receive an adjustment under § 3B1.1 (Aggravating Role) and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 848.

A criminal defense lawyer from our team could help clarify whether you qualify for a point reduction or change in your sentence.

Call the Collin County Law Group for More Information About Federal Sentencing Guidelines

At the Collin County Law Group, our criminal defense lawyers have decades of experience representing clients and have represented numerous clients in federal jury trials, at federal sentencing hearings and on appeal. It is important to us be aware of changes to federal law, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and federal case law. If you or a loved one are facing a federal indictment or under investigation, please contact us.