One of the big, recent developments in federal criminal law is an amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines that allows for a decrease of two levels from the offense level for defendants who had no prior criminal history points at the time of their sentencing. Amendment 821 to the Sentencing Guidelines, which changes 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2), went into effect on February 1, 2024 and applies retroactively. This means that people sentenced before February 1, 2024 can petition the court for a sentence reduction under this provision.
Not all people with zero criminal history points are eligible for this reduction. A person who received a sentence below the minimum of the adjusted (new) guideline is not eligible (unless they provided substantial assistance to the government). Other exclusions include:
- Terrorism offenses
- Sex offenses
- Use of violence or credible threats of violence in connection to the offense
- Offenses that resulted in death or serious bodily injury
- Defendant personally caused substantial financial hardship
- Defendant possessed, received, purchased, transported, transferred, sold, or otherwise disposed of a firearm or other dangerous weapon
- Offenses covered by §2H1.1 (Offenses Involving Individual Rights);
- Defendant received an an adjustment under §3A1.1 (Hate Crime Motivation or Vulnerable Victim) or §3A1.5 (Serious Human Rights Offense); and
- Defendant received an adjustment under §3B1.1 (Aggravating Role) and was engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise
I have filed several motions so far for sentence reductions and I am delighted to share that the first one has been allowed. My client had zero criminal history points and I argued that he otherwise met the criteria for the two-level reduction. In his case, there was a question of whether his financial crime, which was found to have caused substantial financial hardship to at least one victim, excluded him from relief. Fortunately, the Court agreed that he was not excluded from the sentencing reduction because he did not personally cause the substantial financial hardship, which would have made him ineligible. I asked the Court to expedite its ruling for him because with the sentence reduction, he would be eligible for release within days of me filing the motion. The judge allowed the motion one day after it was filed and my client will soon be released, 5 months before his original release date.
Any person serving a federal sentence who believes that they may qualify for a sentence reduction should consult with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to review their case. People who do not have the financial resources to hire an attorney can write to the court where they were sentenced and ask for counsel to be appointed to review their case.
This change in the law only affects the length of time in custody. It does not change supervised release.