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Does the Amendment to Federal Drug Offense Levels Approved in 2014 Offer Relief in your Case?

In 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission approved an Amendment to the United States Sentencing Guidelines (The Guidelines).  The Guidelines are the mechanism by which people are ordinarily sentenced in Federal criminal cases.  The Amendment lowered the so called Base Offense Level for many types of drugs by two points and it became effective on November 1, 2014.  The United States Sentencing Commission promulgated a policy statement making the reduction retroactive. The fact that the amendment is retroactive allows for those already sentenced to in a federal drug case come back to the Court and request a sentence reduction.

What does this mean?  It means that  many individuals sentenced in federal drug conspiracy cases prior to November 2014 received a lengthier Guidelines sentence than they would receive now.  This is due to the two point base offense level reduction authorized by the Sentencing Commission and approved by Congress.  The law allows for people sentenced prior to the November 2014 amendments to petition the U.S. District Court to reduce their existing sentence based on the changed base offense level.  The two point reduction may sound almost insignificant, but a two point reduction can results in a sentence lowered by many months or even years.

Do I qualify?  Does a family member qualify?

The Federal District  Court has jurisdiction to modify existing  sentences under  18 U.S.C. section 3582 (c)(2) which provides.

In the case of a defendant who has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment based
on a sentencing range that has subsequently been lowered by the Sentencing Commission………

..the court may reduce the term of imprisonment, after considering the factors set forth in
section 3553 (a) to the extent that they are applicable, if such a reduction is
consistent with applicable policy statements issued by the Sentencing Commission

Clearly, the Court has jurisdiction to entertain a Motion to Reduce Sentence, but it does not answer the question as to whether you or a family member would qualify for a reduction of sentence in a federal drug conspiracy offense.  To answer that question, one must look to Section 1B1.10 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

In  order to be eligible the law aw generally requires that 1) the amended sentencing range be lower that than the sentence actually imposed and  2) the new sentence must not be less than the minimum of the amended guideline range, unless the person initially received a below Guidelines sentence based on “substantial assistance.”  U.S.S.G sec. 1B1.10.  If both of the above apply, the Court may reduce the sentence consistent with the so called 3553(a) factors.

If you believe that you, a family member or friend may qualify for a sentence reduction, you should consult a qualified Federal criminal defense attorney.

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