Published on: Friday, January 18, 2019

Today, the United States Sentencing Commission published two documents describing the implementation and impact of the First Step Act, signed into law on December 21, 2018. 

The first document provides an overview and answers to FAQs about the Act, such as:

Is the Commission making any changes to the Guidelines in response to the Act?

The Act does not contain any directives to the Commission requiring action. As it does with all new crime legislation, the Commission will review the Act to determine whether Guideline changes might be necessary or appropriate. Because the Act did not include “emergency amendment authority,” any changes to the Guidelines in response to the Act may only be made during the Commission’s annual amendment cycle. (See 28 U.S.C. § 994).

During the annual amendment cycle, the Commission must publish proposed guideline amendments and solicit public comment. See 28 U.S.C. § 994(x). In order for an amendment to move forward after that, at least four Commissioners must vote in favor of  promulgating the amendment. See 28 U.S.C. § 994(a). Once at least four Commissioners have voted in favor, the Commission must deliver the promulgate d amendment to Congress no later than May 1 for the 180-day congressional review period. See 28 U.S.C. § 994(p). If Congress takes no action, the amendment can take effect on November 1 of that year.

The Commission has not yet published any proposed amendments responding to the Act. The Commission currently has two voting members and thus lacks a statutory quorum to promulgate amendments.

The second document published today is a 2-page Sentence and Prison Estimate Summary of the First Step Act.  

The Training Division provides sentencing resource materials that will help you argue for the best sentence possible for your clients.