H.R. 3713, Sentencing Reform Act

Full text of bill available here: Sentencing Reform Act, H.R. 3713

 

Status: H.R. 3713 did not become law during the 114th Congress.

Summary: The Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 3713) is a bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on October 8, 2015, by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Mike Bishop (R-MI). If passed into law, the bill would reduce several federal mandatory minimum drug and gun sentences and make those reductions retroactive for some prisoners; make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive; and expand the federal “safety valve” exception for 5- and 10-year drug mandatory minimum sentences (not retroactive). Scroll down for more details on H.R. 3713.

Companion bill: A very similar but not identical version of H.R. 3713 was introduced in the U.S. Senate. The Senate bill is S. 2123, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, and it was approved by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee by a bipartisan vote of 15 to 5 on October 22, 2015. On April 28, 2016, Senators announced changes to S. 2123. The revised Senate bill did not become a law during the 114th Congress.

THE BILL IS NOT A LAW. FAMM does not know if or when it may become a law. Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in Congress, but very few become law. To become a law, this bill must be approved by the House Judiciary Committee, passed by the full U.S. House, the full U.S. Senate, and signed by the President. Keep checking here for updates on the bill’s progress.

H.R. 3713 would make the following reforms to federal sentencing laws:

  • Reduce the mandatory life without parole sentence for a third drug offense under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 to a mandatory minimum term of 25 years in prison (retroactive, except for those with a prior conviction for a “serious violent felony”);
  • Reduce the mandatory minimum 20-year sentence for a second drug offense under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years in prison (retroactive, except for those with a prior conviction for a “serious violent felony”);
  • Narrowly define which prior drug offenses can trigger longer mandatory minimum drug sentences under 21 U.S.C. s. 841 and s. 851;
  • Apply the 15-year and 25-year mandatory minimum drug sentences to a new group of people who previously would not have received them, those who have broadly-defined “serious violent felony” prior convictions;
  • Make the Fair Sentencing Act (FSA) of 2010 retroactive, allowing some but not all of the approximately 5,800 crack cocaine offenders sentenced before August 3, 2010, to seek sentences in line with that law’s reforms to the 100-to-one disparity between crack and powder cocaine mandatory minimum sentences;
  • Expand the drug “safety valve” exception at 18 U.S.C. s. 3559(f) (not retroactive) so that nonviolent drug offenders can receive sentences below the mandatory minimum term if:
    • they had 4 or fewer criminal history points, as calculated under the federal sentencing guidelines, and did not have a prior 2-point or 3-point felony conviction, OR the court determines that the person’s criminal history score substantially over-represents the seriousness of the defendant’s criminal record or the likelihood that he will commit more crimes; and
    • they fulfill all other parts of the safety valve (no violence resulted; no use or possession of a gun; person pled guilty; and person was not a leader, organizer, manager, or supervisor of the offense conduct).
  • Create an additional safety valve exception (not retroactive) for drug offenders facing 10-year mandatory minimum sentences so that the person can receive the 5-year mandatory minimum prison term instead if they:
    • do not have a prior conviction for a “serious drug felony” or a “serious violent felony”; and
    • do not have a prior conviction for a “serious drug felony” or a “serious violent felony”; and
    • did not play a leadership role in the offense; and
    • did not possess or use a gun in the offense; and
    • plead guilty; and 
    • did not exercise substantial authority or control over the criminal activity of a criminal organization, act as an importer or exporter, high-level distributor or supplier, wholesaler, or manufacturer; and
    • did not sell drugs to or with a person under age 18; and
    • the offense did not result in injury or death; and
    • the offense did not involve gun possession or use.
  • Reduce the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for people convicted for gun possession offenses under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA, 18 U.S.C. s. 922(g)) to a mandatory minimum term of 10 years (retroactive, except for those with a prior conviction for a “serious violent felony”);
  • Apply the 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for ACCA to a new group of people who previously would not have received it, those who have broadly-defined “serious violent felony” prior convictions;
  • Reduce the 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for those who commit second or subsequent offenses of possessing guns in the course of drug trafficking offenses or crimes of violence under 18 U.S.C. s. 924(c) to a mandatory minimum term of 15 years, AND limits application of that 15-year mandatory minimum to convictions that were final prior to the commission of the new 924(c) offense (retroactive, except for those with a prior conviction for a “serious violent felony”);
  • Apply the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for second or subsequent s. 924 offenses to a new group of people who previously would not have received it, those who have broadly-defined state prior convictions for crimes of violence that included gun possession, brandishing, or discharge as an element of the offense; and
  • Create a new, mandatory consecutive sentence of up to 5 years for heroin offenses that involve the drug fentanyl.

Factsheets 

FAMM’s Reflections on Sentencing Reforms in the 114th Congress (Nov. 17, 2015)

FAMM Summary: H.R. 3713, Sentencing Reform Act

FAMM’s Reaction to the Revisions to S. 2123 (April 28, 2016)

Potential Impact

FAMM Letter to Congressional Budget Office on Impact of H.R. 3713 (April 13, 2016)

Comparison Chart: H.R. 3713 vs. Smarter Sentencing Act, H.R. 920

U.S. Sentencing Commission Impact Analysis to House Judiciary Committee (Nov. 18, 2015)

Current Law to be Changed:

Current Drug Safety Valve: 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)

Current mandatory minimum drug sentences: 21 U.S.C. § 841

Current mandatory minimum gun sentences: Possession or use of a gun, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)

Current Armed Career Criminal Act: 18 U.S.C. § 924(e) 

Crack Cocaine/Fair Sentencing Act:

FAQ: The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010

Factsheet: A brief history of crack cocaine sentencing laws

Recidivism Study: What Happened to Those Who Received Crack Sentence Reductions Based on the 2007 Retroactive Crack Guideline Changes

Life Sentences:

Life Sentences in the Federal System (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2015)