Retroactivity of Drug Guidelines Amendments

Today, the United States Sentencing Commission has scheduled a vote as to whether the November 2014 Amendments to the federal drug sentencing guidelines will apply retroactively. The new Amendments reduce the drug sentencing guidelines by 2 points and can result in a sentence reduction of 6 months to 2 years for many inmates. Most legal commentators are confident that the Commission will in fact vote for applying the new guidelines retroactively, the question is whether it will apply generally, i.e. to all drug offenders currently incarcerated in federal prison or to a limited and specified group of inmates. The Department of Justice is arguing for “limited retroactivity,” meaning only those inmates with no aggravating (non-violent) sentencing factors, enhancements and limited criminal histories. Many legal experts suggest that it would more appropriate to allow judges to be judges and permit individual inmate to apply to a judge and allow the judge to consider an inmate’s history, offense and offender characteristics and prison record.