What is the difference between a 5K1 and a Rule 35 and How Can either Help to Reduce a Federal Sentence for a White Collar Crime?

In the context of federal criminal law in the U.S., both the “5K1.1” motion and the “Rule 35” motion are mechanisms through which a defendant can potentially receive a reduced sentence.

These provisions allow the courts to deviate from the sentencing guidelines under specific circumstances.

While somewhat similar, there are important differences between the two:

  1. 5K1.1 Motion (Substantial Assistance to Authorities):
  • Reference: This comes from Section 5K1.1 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
  • Purpose: Allows for a downward departure from the sentencing guidelines when a defendant provides “substantial assistance” to the government in investigating or prosecuting another person.
  • Procedure: The government, typically the U.S. Attorney’s Office, files the motion. The defendant can’t file a 5K1.1 motion on their own.
  • Applicability: It’s used when a defendant cooperates before sentencing.


  1. Rule 35 Motion (Reduction of Sentence for Post-SentencingCooperation):
  • Reference: Based on Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
  • Purpose: Allows for a reduction in an already imposed sentence if the defendant provides significant assistance to the government, usually concerning investigations or prosecutions that weren’t known to the defendant at the time of sentencing or which the defendant didn’t have an opportunity to provide before sentencing.
  • Procedure: Similar to the 5K1.1 motion, the government must file the Rule 35 motion. A defendant cannot file it independently.
  • Applicability:It’s used after a defendant has been sentenced.

How Can They Help in a White-Collar Crime Case? For individuals charged with, or convicted of, of white-collar crimes, both mechanisms can offer an avenue for sentence reduction if they can provide valuable assistance to the government.

  • White-collar criminals often possess inside information about complex financial schemes, collaborators, or other criminal activities. By cooperating with federal authorities, such individuals can provide evidence, testify against co-conspirators, or help investigators understand intricate financial crimes.
  • If a defendant’s cooperation leads to the indictment, conviction, or even just substantially helps an investigation of another individual or entity, the government may acknowledge this assistance by filing a 5K1.1 or Rule 35 motion.

In any situation where a defendant is considering cooperation with the government, working closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential. Cooperation can involve risks, and it’s crucial to understand the potential consequences, protections, as well as possible benefits.

If you have any questions, please call, text or email me.



Sam Mangel




Member: American Bar Association