FAMM Victory: Amendment to Cap Federal Guideline Sentences for Low-Level Drug Offenders is Now Law 11/8/02

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(press release from Families Against Mandatory Minimums)

On November 1, 2002, a federal sentencing guideline amendment to "cap" sentences for the least culpable drug offenders became law.

Amendment 4 is designed to limit the exposure of low level drug offenders to increased penalties based on drug quantity alone. The guideline puts a ceiling on the sentence of a defendant who is a minimal or minor participant.

"Amendment 4 targets the least culpable of all drug defendants, capping their base sentences at Level 30, roughly 10 years," commented Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). "This cap prevents their sentences from being driven above Level 30 by drug quantity, which is the primary factor that determines sentence length. Drug quantity may be a relevant sentencing factor, but a defendant's role in the offense is also a very important factor in determining a just sentence. Amendment 4 strikes a reasonable balance between these factors."

Amendment 4 will not result in wholesale changes to drug sentences. The only defendants covered by it are those found by a court to have been minor or minimal participants in drug offenses. While the amendment would cap their base offense level at 30, it does not prohibit a judge from increasing the sentence based on any other factor the court deems appropriate. The Sentencing Commission estimates that only six percent of all drug defendants -- those who receive a minimal role adjustment -- will qualify, approximately 240 people each year.

FAMM urges the Commission to make Amendment 4 retroactive to apply to those prisoners with mitigating role adjustments whose sentences are above Level 30. Visit http://www.ussc.gov to read the language of Amendment 4, plus other amendments to the federal sentencing guidelines. Visit http://www.famm.org for further information on mandatory minimum sentencing.

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Issue #262, 11/8/02 Editorial: More to This Vote Than Meets the Eye | Black Tuesday for Drug Reform | Arizona Steps Back as Decrim Initiative Loses, Anti-Reform Sentencing Initiative Wins | Legal Pot in Nevada? Not This Year | New York: Pataki Victory Swamps Dems, Golisano, Marijuana Reform Party, Libertarians | Ohio "Treatment Not Jail" Initiative Runs Into Drug War Buzzsaw | No Hemp, No New Rights for Defendants in South Dakota | Wisconsin: Libertarian Thompson Gets Ten Percent | DC Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Treatment Not Jail Initiative | Massachusetts Voters Tell Reps to Support Marijuana Decrim | San Francisco Voters Ask City to Look at Growing Its Own | FAMM Victory: Amendment to Cap Federal Guideline Sentences for Low-Level Drug Offenders is Now Law | Colombian Campaign for Drug Legalization | Anti-Prohibitionists Meet Human Rights Advocates and Political Leaders at Albania Congress of Transnational Radical Party | Newsbrief: Nordic Prohibitionists Beginning Counter-Campaign Supporting UN Drug Conventions | Web Scan: Forbes on Hope Taft, Newsday on Tony Papa, New Scientist on Cannabis, Raich v. Ashcroft Lawsuit Docs | Action Alerts: Rave Bill, Medical Marijuana, Higher Education Act Drug Provision, Tulia, Salvia Divinorum | The Reformer's Calendar
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