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Status Report: Retroactive Drug Guideline Amendment

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On July 18, 2014, the United States Sentencing Commission unanimously voted to give retroactive effect to the guideline amendment regarding drug offenses, which will be designated as Amendment 782 in Appendix C to the Guidelines Manual.  The drug amendment, which generally reduced by two levels the offense levels assigned to the drug quantities in §2D1.1 and §2D1.11, does not become effective until November 1, 2014, because Congress can reject or modify the amendment until that date.  Therefore, federal inmates convicted of drug offenses should wait until November 1, 2014, to file for a sentence reduction under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c).

In addition, the Commission added a new special instruction at §1B1.10(e) providing that a reduced term of imprisonment based on retroactive application of the drug amendment shall not be ordered unless the effective date of the order is November 1, 2015, or later.  As a result, offenders cannot be released from custody pursuant to retroactive application of Amendment 782 before November 1, 2015.  An application note clarifies that the delayed effective date for orders does not preclude the court from conducting sentence reduction proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c) before November 1, 2015, as long as any order reducing a defendant’s term of imprisonment has an effective date of November 1, 2015, or later.  The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia will begin these sentence reduction proceedings in January 2015.