Federal Criminal Law Update: The United States Sentencing Commission Announces Priorities for the Coming Year, Including Consideration of Federal Sentences for Economic Crimes and Mandatory Minimum Penalties

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

In a recent press release, the United States Sentencing Commission set as its top priority continuing to work with Congress to implement the recommendations in its 2011 report on federal mandatory minimum penalties, which included recommendations that Congress reduce the severity and scope of some mandatory minimum penalties and consider expanding the “safety valve” statute which exempts certain low-level non-violent offenders from mandatory minimum penalties.

The Commission noted in its priorities a focus on fulfilling its statutory mandate to work to reduce overcapacity in federal prisons.

The Commission also set out its intention to consider potential changes to the guidelines resulting from its multi-year review of federal sentences for economic crimes.

“For the past several years, we have been reviewing data and listening to key stakeholders to try to determine whether changes are needed in the way fraud offenses are sentenced in the federal system,” Commission Chair Judge Patti Saris said. “We look forward to hearing more this year from experts on these issues and deciding whether there are ways the economic crime guidelines could work better.”

The Commission will also consider whether any amendments to the guidelines or statutory changes are appropriate to facilitate consistent and appropriate use of key sentencing terms including “crime of violence” and “drug trafficking offense.” The Commission will continue to work on multi-year projects to comprehensively study recidivism, including an examination of the use of risk assessment tools in sentencing.

The Commission annually identifies policy priorities in accordance with its statutory authority and responsibility to periodically review, analyze, and revise federal sentencing guidelines. The Commission published tentative priorities and invited public comment in May 2014 and received more than 10,000 letters of public comment in response.

The Sentencing Commission will promulgate amendments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which will be sent to Congress by May 1, 2015.

For individuals who are facing prosecution or sentencing in the United States District Courts of New Jersey, or appealing their matters before the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, it is critical to have an experienced federal criminal defense attorney represent you. The experienced federal criminal defense lawyers of Schwartz & Posnock appear in the United States District Courts in Newark, Trenton and Camden, and have convenient locations in Monmouth County (Eatontown), Essex County (Livingston), Union County (Linden), and Middlesex County (East Brunswick). Call us at 732-544-1460 or email us at info@schwartzposnock.com to schedule an appointment.

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