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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Do I Qualify for a Sentence Reduction Under Amendment 821?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 10:57 pm

Do I Qualify for a Sentence Reduction Under Amendment 821?

If you or a loved one is currently incarcerated in the federal prison system, you may have heard talk about something called Amendment 821 and wondered, “Could this new law help me or my family member get out of prison early?” This amendment, passed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission in 2023, retroactively reduces sentences for some federal crimes by changing the sentencing guidelines judges use. But who actually qualifies for relief under Amendment 821? And how much time could you realistically shave off a sentence if eligible? Let’s break it down.

What is Amendment 821?

First, a quick primer on what Amendment 821 actually is. In April 2023, the Sentencing Commission approved changes to the federal sentencing guidelines as part of the 2023 Criminal History Amendment. This included two key parts:

  • Part A alters how criminal history points are calculated under §4A1.1, reducing the impact of prior convictions on sentences for some defendants.
  • Part B creates a new provision, §4C1.1, that lowers sentences by 2 levels for defendants with very minimal criminal history.

The Commission voted to apply these changes retroactively back to February 1, 2024. This means some people already serving time under the old guidelines could now be eligible for reduced sentences.

Who Is Eligible for a Retroactive Reduction?

The Sentencing Commission estimates around 19,000 current federal inmates could benefit from retroactive application of Amendment 821. But not everyone will qualify. Here are the basic eligibility requirements you or your loved one must meet:

  1. You must have been sentenced based on the old guidelines before February 1, 2024.
  2. Your original sentence must be longer than what you’d receive under the amended guidelines.
  3. You can’t have any disqualifying factors like being a career offender.
  4. You must file an application and get approved for the reduction by a federal judge.

Let’s go through each of these in more detail:

Requirement #1: Sentenced Before February 1, 2024

This one is straightforward – in order to get a retroactive reduction, you had to have been originally sentenced before the amendment took effect on February 1, 2024. If you were sentenced after this date, you automatically got the benefit of the reduced guidelines at your initial sentencing. No need to apply retroactively.

Requirement #2: Original Sentence Exceeds New Guideline Range

Just because Amendment 821 reduces sentences for some offenses doesn’t mean everyone will qualify. You or your lawyer will need to obtain a copy of your sentencing documents and carefully recalculate your guideline range as if Amendment 821 had been in effect. If your original sentence length is already at or below the new range, you likely won’t be eligible for a further reduction.

Requirement #3: No Disqualifying Factors

Even if your sentence checks out, you still can’t have any disqualifying factors that exclude you from retroactive relief under Amendment 821. These include:

  • Being classified as a career offender or armed career criminal
  • Receiving an enhancement for use of violence or credible threats
  • An aggravating role adjustment for being a leader/organizer of criminal activity
  • Involvement in a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE)

So if any of those apply, unfortunately you are out of luck in terms of getting a reduced sentence under this amendment.

Requirement #4: File Application and Get Approved

The final hurdle is that you must affirmatively file a motion for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. §3582(c)(2), and a federal judge must approve you. There are no guarantees – even if you’re eligible on paper, the judge may still deny your request for a variety of reasons.

The earliest you can file is February 1, 2024. If approved, the soonest your sentence could be reduced is also February 2024. Consult an experienced federal criminal defense attorney for guidance navigating this complex process.

How Much Could My Sentence Potentially Be Reduced?

For those eligible for retroactive relief under Amendment 821, how much time could you realistically get shaved off your prison sentence? Here are some key factors that impact the potential sentence reduction amount:

  • Guideline Range Reduction – The more your guideline range decreases under Amendment 821, the larger your reduction may be.
  • Original Sentence Length – Data shows those with longer original sentences tend to see bigger reductions.
  • Time Already Served – This reduces the amount of remaining time that can be reduced.
  • Judge’s Discretion – The judge can grant a comparable reduction, but has discretion over the exact amount.

According to the Sentencing Commission, the average reduction for eligible inmates is projected to be around 14 months. But for some, it could be just a few months, while others may see reductions of a year or even more depending on the circumstances.

What Should You Do Now?

If you think you or your incarcerated loved one may be eligible for a sentence reduction under Amendment 821, here are some suggested steps:

  1. Obtain copies of original sentencing documents like the Presentence Report (PSR) and Judgment Order.
  2. Carefully review the documents and recalculate your guideline range as if Amendment 821 had been in effect.
  3. If it appears you may qualify, contact an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options.
  4. Have your lawyer prepare a §3582(c)(2) motion for filing on February 1, 2024 or after.

It’s a complex process with strict eligibility criteria, so consulting an attorney experienced in post-conviction relief is highly recommended. But for some inmates, applying for a reduction under Amendment 821 could mean getting out of prison months or even years early. Don’t hesitate to explore the possibility if you or a loved one may qualify.

With a good lawyer’s help, you can determine if you meet the criteria, estimate your potential reduction, and get fully prepared to file on February 1st when the application window opens. It could make all the difference as you or your family member works toward rebuilding your life after release. Best of luck!

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