Post Date: April 11, 2014
Yesterday, another important step was taken to improve federal drug sentences! In a unanimous vote, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to lower the drug sentencing guidelines by two levels, which will result in sentence reductions of 11 months, on average! The Commissioners will send this new amendment to Congress on May 1st and if Congress doesn’t kill it, it will become law on November 1st.
During the meeting, several of the Commissioners mentioned that the 21,000 letters they received in support of reducing the drug guidelines had an impact on their decision. I smiled knowingly, confident that most of those letters came from FAMM families who know how to make their voices heard! Great job!
The sentence reduction, which we refer to as “drugs minus two,” lowers by two levels the Drug Quantity Table federal judges use to calculate sentences. Although this is an important change in the sentencing guidelines, mandatory minimum sentences are not affected. In other words, if a defendant’s drug quantity triggers a five-year mandatory minimum sentence, he will still get five years.
Where this change really makes a difference is if a defendant does not face a mandatory minimum sentence or is so far above the mandatory minimum that his sentence could be lowered. For instance, currently if a defendant had 1.5 kilos of methamphetamine he would be sentenced at level 34 to 151 months. With this guideline change, he would be sentenced at level 32 to 121 months. His sentence would be 30 months lower.
The big question is: WILL THIS GUIDELINE CHANGE BE MADE RETROACTIVE? The answer is – we don’t know. The Commissioners agreed to consider the amendment for retroactivity. We expect them to hold a hearing in June where we will testify and urge them to apply the lower drug guidelines to those already in prison. They are well aware of how important this is to prisoners and their families and they will soon be asking for letters from the public about retroactivity. We will tell you when to send them. I want to inundate the Commission with twice as many letters as they received for this first vote! To do that, we need your help.
I’ll be asking for your help very soon, so stay tuned!