New Sentencing Guidelines Approved

The U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to approve sentencing guideline amendments that expand the availability of alternatives to incarceration and address the relevance of certain specific offender characteristics in sentencing, such as age, military service, mental or emotional condition, as well as evidence of drug or alcohol abuse.

The sentencing guidelines provide federal judges with fair and consistent sentencing ranges to consult at sentencing. The guidelines take into account both the seriousness of the criminal conduct and the
defendant’s criminal record. Based on the severity of the offense, the guidelines assign most federal crimes to one of 43 “offense levels.” Each offender is also assigned to one of six “criminal history categories” based upon the extent and recency of his or her past misconduct.

The Commission has heard from virtually every sector of the criminal justice community that there is a great need for alternatives to incarceration,” said Chair of the Commission, William K. Sessions III. “Expanding the availability of alternatives to straight incarceration is a public safety issue. Providing flexibility in sentencing for certain low-level, non violent offenders helps lower recidivism, is cost effective, and protects the public. The Commission’s action in this area amounts to a very modest but important step in the right direction.”

If approved by Congress, these new guidelines will take effect November 1st 2010.


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