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Crack Cocaine Sentencing Modifications

On December 11, 2007, the United States Sentencing Commission agreed to allow people serving sentences for possession and/or distribution of crack cocaine to seek sentence reductions. Close to 19,500 federal prisoners sentenced prior to November 1, 2007, almost 2,520 of whom could be eligible for early release in the first year, may be eligible for sentence modification. The application of the retroactive guideline is not automatic. It will be administered by the Federal courts. If judges believe the prisoner could pose a public safety risk, courts may refuse to grant sentence reductions. The effective date of this amendment is March 3, 2008, to give the courts and probation officers time to prepare to process what will undoubtedly be a heavy load of cases.

On December 10, 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled that judges may impose a sentence below the Federal crack guidelines in cases where the judge believes that the guideline sentence is too harsh.

Please note that neither this new guideline nor its retroactivity change the Federal statutory mandatory minimums.

How Might This Affect My Sentence?

Sentences could be reduced by an average of 27 months for approximately 19,500 federal prisoners sentenced prior to November 1, 2007. Individual reductions will vary and can be shorter or longer than 27 months, depending on the original sentence and how much the court decides to reduce any individual's sentence. Over 1,500 prisoners might be eligible for immediate release from prison if they are given the full benefit of the crack amendment. If you were sentenced after November 1, 2007 then your judge has already taken this amendment into consideration, and you are not eligible for any further sentence reduction under these rulings.

Only the sentencing court can decide whether the amendment applies to an individual prisoner and whether they will get a reduction.

How Do I Apply For A Sentence Reduction?

Call us at 800-209-4331 for a free case consultation and to discover how our criminal defense law firm can help you in this process.

The prisoner must make a motion under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2) to the court that sentenced them. The motion can be formal (i.e., a motion with legal arguments in its support) or informal (i.e., a letter to the court asking for a reduction), but it cannot be brought until after the effective date of March 3, 2008.

Attorneys at the The Criminal Defense Group believe that getting an early start on preparing these motions may be critical to their success.

IMPORTANT NOTE: There is no guarantee that any individual will receive a sentence reduction, even if they are eligible for one. Whether to reduce a sentence or not is entirely up to the sentencing court.

The mandatory minimum sentence for a crime involving at least 5 grams of crack continues to be 5 years. Likewise, the mandatory minimum sentence for a crime involving at least 10 grams of crack will remain 10 years. Only Congress can change these Federal mandatory minimums.

Who Can NOT Benefit From This Amendment?

Those sentenced under § 4B1.1, the career offender guideline, or § 4B1.4, the armed career offender guideline, and those serving only the 5-year or 10-year mandatory minimum will not be eligible for sentencing reduction relief under the amendment. In addition, those with base offense levels of less than 12 or greater than 43 and those whose offense involved more than 4.5 kilograms of crack cocaine will not be able to receive a sentence reduction.

What About Methamphetamine Sentences?

Unless the crime involved both methamphetamine and crack, and the sentence was calculated for both methamphetamine and crack, an individual charged with a methamphetamine offense will not be considered for sentencing reduction under this new development.

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