U.S. Sentencing Commission Weighs Lesser Penalties White Collar Crimes


U.S. Sentencing Commission considers softer sentences for white collar crimes

In the coming year the Feds will consider changes to sentencing guidelines for some white-collar crimes.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which earlier this year reduced guideline ranges for nonviolent drug crimes, unanimously approved its latest set of items on the books. The top priority will be working with Congress on reducing mandatory minimum penalties for many white-collar crimes. Another goal will be measuring the fairness of sentences for fraud and other economic crimes.

The legal panel had been reviewing data for several years, but plans to hear more from judges, victims and others.

Defense lawyers who have sought the changes, say an opportunity to act opened once the sentencing commission cut sentencing guidelines for drug crimes. This cleared a major priority from its big agenda.

Given the public outrage at those executives and huge companies who stole their clients’ life savings and lingering anger over the damage inflicted by the 2008 financial crisis, it seems a strange time to re-vamp the present guidelines. The discussion about adjusting sentences for economic crimes comes as some federal judges have chosen to ignore the existing guidelines in some cases. The Justice Department welcomes a fresh set of eyes as it looks for ways to cut costs in an overpopulated federal prison system. Sentencing guidelines are advisory rather than mandatory, but judges still rely on them many times to add a degree of consistency to their penalties.

White collar sentences are similar to federal drug sentences, but instead of relying on drug quantity to determine a sentence, white collar guidelines use monetary loss. In both cases, considerations bearing on culpability, such as harm, motive, and mitigating circumstances hold almost no sway. With Congress poised to reform drug sentencing, the next logical step is tackling the guidelines for economic crimes. It’s increasingly likely that the U.S. Sentencing Commission will do exactly that during its next session. In anticipation of this opportunity, Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) announces the launch of the “Fit the Crime” project. This project will raise awareness about the shortcomings of the current fraud guidelines and possible reforms for 2015.

No one is seeking leniency for the likes of imprisoned financier Bernie Madoff, who’s serving a 150-year sentence for bilking thousands of people of nearly $20 billion, or fallen corporate titans whose greed drove their companies into the ground. But defense lawyers are calling for a sentencing structure that takes into account the broad continuum of economic crime and that better differentiates between, for example, a thief who steals a dollar each from a million people versus $1 million from one person.


It’s time to make the time fit the crime!


New Orleans White Collar Crime Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one is facing allegations of a white collar crime or other federal criminal offense, contact attorney Elizabeth B. Carpenter for a consultation.  We are ready to give you a strong defense.


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