U.S. Senate and House Introduce Separate Versions of Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015
Committees from both the U.S. Senate and the House have introduced bills that could reform federal sentencing. Below is a brief recap of each piece of legislation.
- Reduces the enhanced penalties that apply to repeat drug offenders and eliminates the three-strike mandatory life provision, but allows those enhanced penalties to be applied to offenders with prior convictions for serious violent and serious drug felonies.
- Expands the existing safety valve to offenders with more extensive criminal histories but excludes defendants with prior felonies and violent or drug trafficking offenses unless a court finds those prior offenses substantially overstate the criminal history and danger of recidivism.
- Creates a second safety valve that gives judges discretion to sentence certain low-level offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum, but defendants convicted of serious violent and serious drug felonies cannot benefit from these reforms.
- Expands the enhanced mandatory minimum for violent firearm offenders to those with prior federal or state firearm offenses but reduces that mandatory minimum to provide courts with greater flexibility in sentencing.
- Raises the statutory maximum for unlawful possession of firearms but lowers the enhanced mandatory minimum for repeat offenders.
- Adds new mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes involving interstate domestic violence and creates new mandatory minimum for providing weapons and other defense materials to prohibited countries and terrorists.
- Applies the Fair Sentencing Act and certain sentencing reforms retroactively.
- Requires the Department of Justice to conduct risk assessments to classify all federal inmates and to use the results to assign inmates to appropriate recidivism reduction programs, including work and education programs, drug rehabilitation, job training, and faith-based programs. Eligible prisoners who successfully complete these programs can earn early release and may spend the final portion (up to 25 percent) of their remaining sentence in home confinement or a halfway house.
- Reduces the three-strike mandatory life sentence to 25 years and the two-strike sentence from 20 to 15 years, and applies these reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of greater than 13 months.
- Allows drug sentences to be enhanced based upon prior convictions for serious violent felonies, including a sentencing enhancement for trafficking in Fentanyl, a highly addictive and deadly drug.
- Expands the existing drug “safety valve” to offenders with prior misdemeanor convictions but excludes offenders with prior felonies, or prior violent or drug trafficking convictions.
- Permits courts to find that a defendant’s prior offenses substantially overstate the defendant’s criminal history and danger of recidivism, thus qualifying them for the reduction.
- Creates a second safety valve that allows judges to sentence certain offenders below the 10-year mandatory minimum.
- Expands the enhanced penalties for violent firearms offenders to those with prior firearm convictions.
- Raises the statutory maximum for unlawful possession of firearms but lowers the enhanced mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenders.
- Revises the language regarding second or subsequent convictions for certain firearms offenses.
- Applies the sentencing reductions retroactively, except for offenders who have prior serious violent felony convictions (as defined in the bill).
- Applies the Fair Sentencing Act Retroactively.
- Allows FSA retroactivity for offenders who have never received a reduction, or for those who were ineligible because they were sentenced at the mandatory minimum.
If you have been contacted by federal authorities in connection with a criminal investigation, contact a New Orleans federal defense attorney today.