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Amendment 821: Reducing Sentences for Drug Offenses – Explained

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

 

Amendment 821: Reducing Sentences for Drug Offenses – Explained

The United States Sentencing Commission recently passed Amendment 821, which could allow around 11,500 currently incarcerated individuals to get their sentences reduced starting February 1, 2024[1]. This is a really big deal that could impact a lot of lives! Let’s break down what Amendment 821 actually does and what it means for people serving time for drug offenses.

What Does Amendment 821 Do?

Amendment 821 makes two main changes[2]:

  1. It limits the number of “status points” that can count towards someone’s criminal history score. Status points are extra points added for things like being on probation, parole, or supervised release when the crime was committed.
  2. It creates a new rule that people with no criminal history points at all get a 2-level reduction in their sentencing guideline range for certain offenses, mostly drug crimes.

These changes mean some people will end up in a lower criminal history category, which brings down the sentencing range. For example, someone who was in Category III before could now be in Category II and get around a year less in their sentence. The Sentencing Commission estimates the average reduction will be 14-17 months off sentences[1][3].

Who Is Eligible for a Reduced Sentence?

There’s a few requirements to get a lower sentence under Amendment 821[4]:

  • You can’t have any criminal history points, not even 1 point
  • Your crime didn’t involve violence or threats
  • Your crime wasn’t a sex offense
  • You weren’t convicted of terrorism

If you meet all those conditions, you’ll qualify for the 2 offense level decrease. The Sentencing Commission estimates around 7,272 people will benefit from the change in how status points are counted, and 11,495 will get the 2 level reduction for no criminal history[3].

What Types of Offenses Are Eligible?

While Amendment 821 applies to any federal offense meeting the requirements, it will have the biggest impact on drug crimes. Most drug offenses don’t involve violence or prior records, so a lot of drug offenders will see their sentences go down. The average sentence reduction is estimated to be 14-17 months – that’s huge when you’re already serving years in prison[1][3].

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
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Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
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2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
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Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
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2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
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2024-03-12
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Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

The change will also impact many white collar crimes like fraud and embezzlement. Again, these offenses often don’t involve violence or prior records, so first-time offenders will benefit[5].

How Will Retroactive Sentencing Work?

Normally when the sentencing guidelines change, it only applies to future cases. But Amendment 821 was passed with retroactive effect, meaning people already in prison can petition to get their sentences reduced[6]. Here’s how it works:

  1. The inmate files a motion with the court that originally handled their case, asking for a sentencing reduction under Amendment 821.
  2. The probation office calculates what the new guideline range would be under Amendment 821.
  3. The judge reviews the case and has discretion whether to reduce the sentence or not.

Even if someone qualifies on paper, the judge can deny the reduction or only reduce the sentence partially. But this gives inmates who meet the requirements a chance to get out earlier. The process starts on February 1, 2024.

What Do Opponents Say?

While many see Amendment 821 as a positive step, some groups oppose reducing drug sentences. Their main arguments are:

  • It could undermine deterrence against drug crimes.
  • Drug offenses still cause a lot of harm even if nonviolent.
  • Mandatory minimums should be set by Congress not the Sentencing Commission.
  • The changes are too sweeping and don’t consider individual cases.

Opponents worry relaxing sentences will send the wrong message and lead to an increase in drug activity. They think the original sentences reflect the severity of the crimes.

What Do Supporters Say?

Groups in favor of Amendment 821 make counterarguments like:

  • Long sentences haven’t deterred drug crimes effectively.
  • Nonviolent offenses deserve a second chance.
  • The changes still give judges discretion.
  • Reducing prison overcrowding has benefits.

Supporters point out long drug sentences and overcrowded prisons have many negative consequences. Letting qualified inmates out earlier can save taxpayer money and let them become productive members of society again, while still keeping public safety in mind.

The Bottom Line

Amendment 821 has the potential to change thousands of lives by reducing overly harsh sentences for drug crimes. But it also raises serious questions about finding the right balance in our criminal justice system. Reducing prison populations has many benefits, but opponents argue it could also undermine deterrence and cause new problems. While reasonable people can disagree on these policies, giving inmates a second chance seems like the more humane and constructive approach when appropriate. Either way, these changes will have a major impact that’s important to understand.

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