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Sentencing Commission Nixes Guideline Changes For 2017

The U.S. Sentencing Commission will not adopt amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines this year, Acting Chair William Pryor announced during a recent hearing on alternatives to incarceration.According to Mr. Pryor's prepared remarks:

"Although the Commission again has the four voting members required to promulgate guideline amendments, the lack of a voting quorum for almost three critical months of our amendment cycle means we will not be able to promulgate amendments this year.

Those who closely follow us know that in December, we voted to publish several proposed amendments for comment, among them an amendment that would add a downward adjustment and encourage the use of alternatives for some first-time offenders, and amendments that would respond to recommendations made by the Tribal Issues Advisory Group regarding how tribal offenses and juvenile sentences are considered. The public comment period has closed.

We received a great deal of thoughtful public comment, which can be reviewed on our website. We thank the public for taking the time to give careful consideration to these proposals.

Ordinarily, we would have received testimony about the proposed amendments at a public hearing in March. But with only two voting commissioners we deferred scheduling a hearing until a reconstituted Commission was formed. By statute, the Commission is required to submit any amendments to the guidelines to Congress by May 1st for a 180-day congressional review period. Because we did not have a voting quorum for almost three months, there simply is not enough time for us to schedule a public hearing on the proposed amendments, digest the public comment, deliberate, and hold a public vote by the statutory deadline.

Therefore, this year we will not promulgate any amendments to the guidelines. But our data analysis, legal research, and public comment on these proposed amendments should provide us a sound basis for considering guideline amendments as early as possible during the next amendment cycle."

This is the first time that I am aware of that the Commission has not adopted amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines during its regular amendment cycle.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission is responsible for the the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines which are considered by federal judges when determining the punishment for federal offenses.

About Brandon Sample

Brandon Sample is an attorney, author, and criminal justice reform activist. Brandon’s law practice is focused on federal criminal defense, federal appeals, federal post-conviction relief, federal civil rights litigation, federal administrative law, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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