April 14, 2010

USSC votes to eliminate U.S.S.G. Section 4A1.1(e) from Guidelines

On Tuesday, April 13, 2010, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to amend the Guidelines Manual by deleting U.S.S.G. §4A1.1(e) (adding 2 criminal history points when the instant offense was committed within two years of release from prison). The presumed reason for the amendment is that recency points add nothing to the predictive quality of the criminal history score and fail to reflect meaningful differences in offender culpability, as set forth at pp. 90-98 of the Defenders’ testimony to the Commission, available at http://www.fd.org/pdf_lib/FPD_Testimony%20of%20Meyers%20and%20Mariano_FINAL.pdf.

The recency amendment will be sent to Congress on May 1, 2010 and, if no further action is taken, will be adopted on Nov. 1, 2010. This does not mean, however, that courts must continue applying recency points in the interim. The court remains free under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and Supreme Court precedent to disagree with any part of the guidelines on policy grounds. Defense counsel should argue that courts should not assess recency points now for the same reason that the Commission recommends abandoning them on Nov. 1st: they do not reflect either increased culpability or an increased risk of recidivism and thus do not serve any sentencing purpose.

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