The United States Sentencing Commission has reduced the penalty for most federal drug crimes. Effective November 1st of last year, the number of points assigned to drug crimes in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines was reduced by 2 points. This matters, because judges are required to consider the Guidelines when rendering a sentence. Under the Guidelines, a term of imprisonment is the function of two things, a defendant’s “Criminal History Category” and “Offense Level.” For drug offenses – no matter the quantity or kind of drug – the Sentencing Commission reduced the base Offense Level by two points.
So a person selling 1 kilogram of cocaine with a clean criminal record would have his Guidelines sentence reduced by about a year. A person selling 10 kilograms of cocaine with a clean criminal record would have his Guidelines sentence reduced by two years.
The purposes of the amendment to the Guidelines include saving money and reforming federal drug sentences, which are widely perceived as unfair. The sentencing reform applies not only to current cases, but also closed cases. Federal inmates doing time for drug offenses can file petitions to reduce their sentences, and may be eligible for early release starting on November 1, 2015.