The First Step Act was signed into law on December 21, 2018. The Act significantly impacts mandatory minimum sentencing for certain offenses, among other things. For example, the Act reduces some of the enhanced minimum mandatory sentences for controlled substance offenses where the government files a notice under 21 U.S.C. Sec. 851. It limits the types of prior drug convictions that qualify as Sec. 851 predicates, and adds to the list of qualifying predicates, some prior violent felony convictions. The Act also makes changes to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 924(c) to eliminate the 25-year consecutive provision unless the defendant has a final prior Sec. 924(c) conviction. In addition, the Act expands the availability of safety-valve (e.g., expand the eligibility for safety valve to defendants with up to four criminal history points, with exclusions) but only if the conviction is entered on or after the date of enactment. Finally, the Act permits defendants sentenced before the Fair Sentencing Act (which reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine), to petition for their sentences to be re-evaluated and reduced. Please see below for more information.
The First Step Act of 2018
by 115th Congress of the United States of America
This 56-page document is the First Step Act.
Frequently Asked Questions on the First Step Act, S. 756 (Jan. 3, 2019)
by Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM)
This outline provides answers to frequently asked questions about the Act, including information about good time and earn time credits.
Sentencing Reform Provisions of the First Step Act (Jan. 8, 2019)
by Craig Crawford, Attorney Advisor, Defender Services Office Training Division, Washington DC, Amy Baron-Evans, National Sentencing Resource Counsel, Boston, MA, and Jayme L. Feldman, Sentencing Resource Counsel Research/Writing Specialist, Washington, DC
This one-page sheet gives an overview of the sentencing reform provisions, showing the provisions Pre-First Step Act and Post-First Step Act and their applicability.
Chart for Sections 401-404 of the First Step Act and Preventing and Challenging an Enhanced Sentence Under Section 851
by Amy Baron-Evans, National Sentencing Resource Counsel, Boston, MA
A chart covering Sections 401-404 of the First Step Act, and a memo entitled Preventing and Challenging an Enhanced Sentence Under Section 851 are available on the password-protected side of fd.org. These materials are not to be distributed to anyone else including clients, prosecutors, probation officers or courts. If you have questions after reading the First Step Act and reviewing the materials, contact your FPD office, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Federal Defender Letter to Senate re First Step Act and Sentencing Reform (Aug. 13, 2018)
by Federal Public and Community Defenders Legislative Committee
Chart for Earned Time Credits Under the First Step Act
by Sentencing Resource Counsel for the Federal Public and Community Defender (updated Nov. 2018)
- The First Step Act of 2018
Bipartisan Sentencing Reform Bills Are Introduced in Congress: In October 2015, two bipartisan sentencing bills were introduced, The Sentencing Reform Act, in the House, and The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015, in the Senate.
These bills add to the existing sentencing reform legislation proposed through the Smarter Sentencing Act and the Justice Safety Valve Act, which were both reintroduced in February 2015, as well as the SAFE Justice Act, introduced in the House in June 2015.For a summary of all sentencing reform bills currently pending in Congress see this Chart Summarizing Sentencing Reform Bills (Introduced 2015). Additional summaries, fact sheets, and the full text of these bills are available at famm.org.