August 14, 2014 Articles

The U.S. Sentencing Commission's War on Drugs

Recent amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are consistent with Attorney General Holder's agenda, and will allow courts significant discretion in reducing sentences of qualifying defendants.

By Vadim A. Glozman

Editor’s Note: We are pleased to present two excellent articles below regarding the recent amendments to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. Our first article, by Vadim A. Glozman, discusses how the amendments are consistent with Department of Justice policy under Attorney General Eric Holder, and examines the potential impact on the sentencing courts. Dillon Malar’s article focuses on the consequences of the guidelines being applied retroactively, and touches on the logistics of how this will be accomplished. We hope you enjoy both of these excellent articles on this important subject.

Earlier in 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to amend base offense levels associated with the Drug Quantity Table in guideline section 2D1.1. Essentially, the amendment reduces the base offense levels for all drug types by two, while remaining consistent with the mandated five- and ten-year statutory minimums. The amendments would make parallel changes to the section 2D1.11 quantity tables, which apply to offenses involving chemical precursors of controlled substances.

The commission estimates that the amendment would decrease sentences for nearly 70 percent of federal drug-trafficking defendants by an average of 11 months, or 17 percent. This “modest reduction” in drug penalties is an attempt by the commission to reduce the federal prison population by what they expect to be more than 6,500 inmates in five years, with hopes of a considerably greater long-term impact.

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