Defense lawyers have long been arguing that the way the guidelines treat folks with no criminal history is too harsh. Judges have mostly ignored these arguments for the past 30 years.
Well, now the Sentencing Commission has jumped in and said that folks with no criminal history (and no violence) should get an additional 2 levels off of their sentence. AND it's going to be retroactive.
The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), in a 4-to-3 vote, allowed for delayed retroactive application of Amendment 821 relating to criminal history—meaning that certain currently incarcerated individuals could be eligible for reduced sentences made effective beginning on February 1, 2024 (unofficial text). Amendment 821 creates a new Chapter Four guideline at §4C1.1 (Adjustment for Certain Zero-Point Offenders) providing a decrease of two levels from the offense level determined under Chapters Two and Three for defendants who did not receive any criminal history points under Chapter Four, Part A and whose instant offense did not involve specified aggravating factors. In short, for many white collar crimes and lower-level drug offenses, it could mean months or years off of a sentence.
The USSC estimated in its July 2023 Impact Analysis that retroactive application would carry a meaningful impact for many currently incarcerated individuals:
11,495 incarcerated individuals will have a lower sentencing range under Part A of Amendment 821 relating to “Status Points” with a possible sentence reduction of 11.7%, on average.
7,272 incarcerated individuals would be eligible for a lower sentencing range based upon the established criteria under Part B of Amendment 821 relating to “Zero-Point Offenders” with a possible sentence reduction of 17.6%, on average.