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Crack Cocaine Retroactivity Amendment Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 11, 2007) – The United States Sentencing Commission unanimously voted today to give retroactive effect to a recent amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces penalties for crack cocaine offenses. Retroactivity of the crack cocaine amendment will become effective on March 3, 2008. Not every crack cocaine offender will be eligible for a lower sentence under the decision. A Federal sentencing judge will make the final determination of whether an offender is eligible for a lower sentence and how much that sentence should be lowered. That determination will be made only after consideration of many factors, including the Commission’s direction to consider whether lowering the offender’s sentence would pose a danger to public safety. In addition, the overall impact is anticipated to occur incrementally over approximately 30 years, due to the limited nature of the guideline amendment and the fact that many crack cocaine offenders will still be required under Federal law to serve mandatory five- or ten-year sentences because of the amount of crack involved in their offense.

On November 1, 2007, after a six-month congressional review period, the Commission’s amendment to the Federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses took effect. The amendment was intended as a step toward reducing some of the unwarranted disparity currently existing between Federal crack cocaine and powder cocaine sentences. The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 specifically authorized the Commission to provide for retroactive effect of amendments that result in lower penalties for classes of offenses or offenders, as this amendment could.

United States Sentencing Commission News Release

Given the above described retroactivity amendment, the United States Probation Office, Federal Courts and United States Attorney’s Offices across the country have been put to task to review and assess all cases sentenced under the previous crack cocaine guidelines. Many federal inmates have also initiated contact either directly to the Sentencing Court, Probation Office, U.S. Attorney, or to their respective attorneys, with requests for a review of their sentences in hopes of being re-sentenced under this retroactivity amendment. The purpose of this service is to provide defense counsel with assistance in reviewing the facts of the case and the previous sentence imposed, in order to determine a defendant’s eligibility for re-sentencing under this amendment.

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