Sentencing Commission considering changes in coming year

Last month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission—the federal agency which sets sentencing policy for judges to use in federal criminal cases—made the announcement that it would soon be seeking to make changes to mandatory minim sentences. Mandatory minimum sentences are standard prison terms applied in criminal cases based on certain factors in the case. While mandatory minimum sentences do help in standardizing the outcome of criminal cases, they can also lead to inflexibility, depending on the judge handling the case.

Mandatory minimum sentences are often applied in drug offenses, though they are used in other offenses as well. As we’ve noted before on this blog, the commission is planning on looking at mandatory minimums for both drug offenses and fraud offenses. The coming changes are based on an effort to reduce incarceration expenses and to address the problem of overcrowding in federal prison populations.  

In addition to reforms to mandatory minimum sentences in drug and fraud cases, the commission also plans to continue looking at risk assessment, recidivism, and other issues that impact federal criminal defendants. Depending on the changes that take place, the way criminal defense attorney handle criminal cases involving federal offenses could change.

Anybody facing prosecution for a federal crime, especially drug and fraud offenses, can really benefit from an experienced advocate. A skilled attorney understands not only what issues to look for in building a strong defense case, but also how to continue advocating for the defendant after trial. This includes sentencing and, if necessary, appeals.

Source:, “US Sentencing Commission Announces Priorities for 2014-2015 Amendment Cycle,” August 14, 2014. 

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