Sentencing in federal criminal case is largely a product of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual. For those that may not know, the Guidelines were established by Congress in the 1980s in an effort to bring uniformity and consistency to federal criminal cases. The Guidelines established, among other things, mandatory minimum sentences for many drug conspiracy cases.
In 1994, Congress passed the “Safety Valve” statute, 18 U.S.C section 3553(f). The safety valve provision of Title 18 authorizes Courts to impose sentences below the statutory minimum if the defendant meets certain requirements in cases under section 21 USC 841, 844, 846, 960 or 963.