Yesterday, August 24th, the United States Sentencing Commission approved, by a majority vote, allowed for delayed retroactive application of Amendment 821 relating to criminal history—meaning that certain currently incarcerated individuals could be eligible for reduced sentences made effective beginning on February 1, 2024.

This new ruling could dramatically affect you or your loved one if you have not yet been sentenced or are already in prison. It reduces the number of sentencing guideline points by 2 levels in many instances.

The new criminal history amendment makes two (2) important changes to the Chapter Four criminal history rules, both of which would reduce the guideline’s range for certain offenders. First, the amendment eliminates the use of “status points” – which are added if the defendant committed the instant offense “while under any criminal justice sentence, including probation, parole, supervised release, imprisonment, work release, or escape status” – in certain circumstances. As amended, the “status points” provision under redesignated U.S.S.G. §4A1.1(e) applies only to offenders with more serious criminal histories under the guidelines. “Status points” will no longer apply to offenders with less serious criminal histories – i.e., six or fewer criminal history points – even if the instant offense was committed while the offender was under a criminal justice sentence.


Second, the proposed amendment creates a new Chapter Four guideline, which provides a decrease of two (2) levels from the offense level for offenders who did not receive any criminal history points under Chapter Four and whose instant offense did not involve certain proscribed criteria. The proposed language of U.S.S.G. §4C1.1 defines “zero-point offenders” as those offenders with no criminal history points, including (1) offenders with no prior convictions; (2) offenders who have prior convictions that are not counted because those convictions were not within the time limits set forth in subsection (d) and (e) of U.S.S.G. §4A1.2; and (3) offenders who have prior convictions that are not used in computing the CHC for reasons other than their “staleness” (e.g., sentences resulting from foreign or tribal court convictions, minor misdemeanor convictions, or infractions).

For those of you with loved ones currently in prison, here is the new ruling: https://www.ussc.gov/about/news/press-releases/august-24-2023.

I am sure that you have many questions, both if you are preparing for your sentencing, but also if you have a loved one currently in a federal prison. This could dramatically change the amount of time they have to remain in prison; however, this is not an automatic adjustment.

If you would like to discuss this new ruling, please call, text, or email me.


Sam Mangel




Member: American Bar Association