The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore (and other offices around the county) has announced a new policy, effective March 13, in which certain drug offenders will receive a 2-level downward departure on the drug quantity chart. This is fantastic news and it aligns with imminent changes to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. Statistically, this amounts to shorter sentences by about 11 months per drug offender. The move is largely in response to overcrowded federal prisons, which are predominantly filled by drug offenders, and a sense that some drug sentences are simply too long. The first defendant sentenced under the new policy in Baltimore was a client of The Law Office of C. Justin Brown.
There are limitations on who may benefit from this. For example, violent offenders, gang members and those who possess firearms are probably not eligible. For the time being, it also does not apply to defendants who have already been sentenced.
Here is the text of the announcement:
“It is policy of the Justice Department that the base offense levels for drug offenses should be reduced by two levels, as the Attorney General is recommending to the Sentencing Commission. If the proposed guideline amendment is adopted by the Commission, the reduction would take effect as a matter of law on November 1, 2014.
Effective on March 13, 2014, however, if a defendant agrees on the record not to seek a further reduced sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) on the basis of the two-level reduction in the event the two-level reduction is adopted and made retroactive by the Sentencing Commission, and the case raises no significant aggravating factors, then federal prosecutors should agree not to object to a downward variance of two levels. Otherwise, prosecutors should object to any reduction based on the proposed guideline amendment.
Significant aggravating factors may include a defendant’s use of violence, possession of a weapon, leadership role, ties to a gang or major drug trafficking organization, criminal history, and other factors to be determined in the discretion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
This discretionary policy applies only to defendants who have not been sentenced. Under the law, there is no authority for a court to grant relief to a previously sentenced defendant based on this discretionary policy.”