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United States Sentencing Commission Changes Sentencing Guidelines

Posted by Seth Chazin | Mar 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

The United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) has made adjustments to the United States Sentencing Guidelines.

The following reforms were addressed by the Commission: invocation of compassionate release for seriously ill inmates and the elderly, modified conditions of supervised release and probation, the sentencing of child pornography offenders who use peer-to-peer software to commit their offenses, and increased penalties for animal fight crimes.

Compassionate Release

Before the end of an inmate's term of imprisonment, federal law allows judges to release them on the recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Prisons based on “compelling and extraordinary reasons.”  The court makes a determination whether such reasons exist, if the Bureau of Prisons files a motion. Such a motion is often initiated by the inmate or their family.  Fortunately, the commission modified the guideline's policy statement at  §1B1.13, expanding the definition of what constitutes “compelling and extraordinary reasons.”

Learn more:  §1B1.13 (Policy Statement) - Compassionate Release


Conditions of Probation & Supervised Release

The amendment clarifies, rearranges, and revises the conditions of probation and supervised release to make them simpler for probation officers to enforce and for defendants to understand. For some conditions, the classifications of “standard”, “special” and “mandatory” have been changed. In some conditions, Mens rea* requirements are added. The changes are also aligned with proposed changes to National Judgement Form (AO245B), that are endorsed by U.S. Court's Administratives Office and Criminal Law Committee.

Learn more:§5B1.3 / §5D1.3 - Conditions of Probation & Supervised Release

*the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused.






Child Pornography Circuit Conflicts

The Commission modified the guidelines of child pornography to resolve inconsistent applications and circuit conflicts of guidelines in two areas. The first half of the amendment addresses the accountability of child pornography distribution over peer-to peer networks, and the other half addresses cases involving toddlers and infants.

Learn more about Child Child Pornography Circuit Conflicts








Animal Fighting

Congress increased penalties for animal fighting from 3 to 5 years in 2008, and enacted legislation in 2014, making it a criminal offense to attend an animal fight, or to cause a person under the age of 16 to attend an animal fight. In response, the Commission modified an existing departure provision and increased the base offense level from 10 to 16.

Learn more:  §2E1.3 - Animal Fighting

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About the Author

Seth Chazin

Seth P. Chazin has aggressively defended clients in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases for over 30 years. He has extensive experience representing criminal defendants in federal and state court, while handling both state and federal appeals as well.


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“The death penalty is a lie, a misguided mistake born of anger and frustration. Capital punishment has become a perverse monument to inequality, to how some lives matter and others do not. It is a violent example of how we protect and value the rich and abandon and devalue the poor. The death penalty is a grim, disturbing shadow formed by the legacy of racial apartheid and bias against the poor that condemns the disfavored among us, but corrupts us all. It’s the perverse symbol elected officials use to strengthen their ‘tough on crime’ reputations and distract us from confronting the causes of violence. It is finally the enemy of grace, redemption and all of us who recognize that each person is more than their worse act.”
- Bryan Stevenson