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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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The Retroactive Impact of Amendment 821 on Drug Sentencing

The Retroactive Impact of Amendment 821 on Drug Sentencing

Amendment 821 is a game-changer for many people convicted of federal drug crimes. Passed in 2023, this amendment allows for retroactive sentence reductions for some incarcerated individuals. Here’s an overview of Amendment 821 and what it means for thousands of people in federal prison for drug offenses.

What is Amendment 821?

Amendment 821 makes two main changes to the federal sentencing guidelines:

  • It limits the impact of “status points” for criminal history. Status points are added when someone commits a crime while under a criminal justice sentence like probation or parole. This change helps people who had status points added to their sentence.
  • It reduces sentences by 2 levels for some drug offenders with no criminal history and whose crime did not involve violence or other aggravating factors. This helps first-time, low-level drug offenders.

These changes apply retroactively starting February 1, 2024. This means some people already in prison can petition for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821.

Who is eligible for a reduced sentence?

The U.S. Sentencing Commission estimates over 18,000 federal inmates will be eligible for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821.Here are the basic requirements:

  • For the status points change, you must have had status points added to your sentence calculation. This increased your criminal history score.
  • For the 2-level reduction, you must have no criminal history points, and your crime cannot have involved violence, death, injury, firearms, vulnerable victims, etc.
  • You must be currently incarcerated in federal prison for a drug trafficking offense.
  • Your original sentence must have been calculated based on the sentencing guidelines changed by Amendment 821.

If you meet these criteria, you may qualify for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821 starting on February 1, 2024.

How much of a sentence reduction is possible?

The Sentencing Commission estimates the average sentence reduction will be:

  • 14 months (11.7% reduction) for those eligible under the status points change
  • 15 months (17.6% reduction) for those eligible for the 2-level reduction

While these are averages, some inmates may see greater reductions depending on their individual case facts. For those with more substantial reductions, Amendment 821 could mean years less in prison.

What’s the process for seeking a reduced sentence?

Starting February 1, 2024, inmates eligible under Amendment 821 can file a motion for a sentence reduction. This is commonly called a “motion for compassionate release.”You may file the motion yourself or with an attorney. The process involves:

  • Filing a written motion explaining how you qualify for a reduced sentence under Amendment 821
  • Providing copies of your original judgment, sentencing documents, and Bureau of Prisons records
  • Waiting for the court to appoint a federal defender or attorney to review and file supplements
  • Attending a hearing where the judge will decide whether to reduce the sentence

This process can take many months. It requires patience as courts have a backlog of motions to handle. An experienced federal prison release attorney can help navigate this complex process.

What’s next after a sentence is reduced?

The judge can reduce your sentence to a certain number of months less than the original sentence. This new sentence will determine your release date from prison.People released under Amendment 821 will need reentry services and support. The delayed implementation until 2024 allows time to prepare reentry plans.Supervised release may be part of the reduced sentence. This means complying with probation-type conditions and supervision after release.

The long-term impacts of Amendment 821

Beyond helping thousands achieve early release, Amendment 821 also signals an important shift in attitudes around federal drug sentencing.The Sentencing Commission itself recognizes lengthy sentences for low-level drug offenders often don’t serve the purposes of sentencing. Amendment 821 is a move toward more just and proportional sentences.Retroactivity means righting past excessive sentences, not just changing future ones. This promotes fairness, rehabilitation, and public safety.For those still facing federal drug prosecution, Amendment 821 means future sentencing will better reflect individual circumstances. Mandatory minimums and rigid guidelines have given way to more nuanced, evidence-based sentencing.

Amendment 821 offers hope, but challenges remain

Amendment 821 provides long-awaited relief for many federal drug offenders. However, significant challenges remain:

  • Sentences are still lengthy for many drug crimes. More reforms are needed to reduce excessive sentences.
  • Racial disparities and inequality persist throughout the criminal justice system. Amendment 821 is one small step toward progress.
  • Reentry support and services need more funding to smoothly transition thousands back to society.
  • Not everyone eligible will obtain release. Some motions will be denied based on case specifics.
  • The backlog of motions could mean very prolonged wait times before release.

While Amendment 821 is historic, it’s only one milestone in the marathon toward a more just federal criminal justice system. There’s more work to be done reforming drug sentencing and improving the prison system.


Amendment 821 ushers in a new era of reduced sentences for thousands of federal inmates convicted of drug crimes. This retroactive change provides hope and justice to many who received lengthy sentences under old guidelines.However, more reforms are still needed to make drug sentencing truly fair and proportional for all. Sentencing policies must continue evolving based on evidence, not fear and politics.For now, Amendment 821 offers the chance for a second look – and potentially a second chance – for thousands of incarcerated individuals. This will not only improve lives but also strengthen families, communities, and society as a whole.

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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It was my good fortune to retain Spodek Law Group for representation for my legal needs. From the beginning, communication was prompt and thorough. Todd, Kenneth and Alex were the first people I worked with and they all made me, and my company Qumana skincare feel comfortable and confident that the team was going to work hard for me. Everything...

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After meeting with several law firms, I chose the Spodek Law Group not only for their professionalism and experience, but for the personal attention given to me right from the initial consultation. It is important to recognize how crucial having the right legal team is when faced with potentially life altering events that impact families and the lives of loved...

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