“I have significant restitution payments, am I still eligible for the 2-point sentence reduction?”
I have received dozens of calls and emails from concerned inmates and their families about the two-point sentence reduction that may be coming up for first time offenders with zero criminal history points. I have spoken with many people saying that they’ve spoken with other firms who want to charge them up to $500 just to determine their eligibility for this new program. Why would anyone want to pay for something that should be free, a consultation to simply determine one’s eligibility? We don’t!
Because of vague wording in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, people are often worried that they won’t qualify for the point reduction, but positively, these worries are often overblown.
So, what do the Sentencing Guidelines say about a point reduction for those ordered to pay restitution or those who have financial victims?
Of the eight guidelines, the relevant one for this issue says that, in order to be eligible for a point reduction, a prisoner must have “not personally caused significant/substantial financial hardship.”
What is “Substantial Financial Hardship”?
Many people get hung up on what “substantial financial hardship” means, and automatically assume that if they were convicted of a white collar crime, they would not be eligible for a point reduction, as most white collar crimes have financial victims in some form.
However, not everyone who is convicted of a white collar crime is responsible for inflicting “substantial financial hardship” on victims. The term has long been a part of US Sentencing Guidelines, and the factors that are considered “substantial financial harm” are well developed.
Offenses are considered to have caused “substantial financial hardship” if they result in a victim or victims:
- Becoming insolvent;
- Filing for bankruptcy;
- Suffering substantial loss of a retirement, education, or other savings or investment fund;
- Making substantial changes to his or her employment, such as postponing his or her retirement plans;
- Making substantial changes to his or her living arrangements, such as relocating to a less expensive home; and
- Suffering substantial harm to his or her ability to obtain credit.
If, at the time of sentencing, a judge rules that a crime resulted in any of the above, a 4-point sentence enhancement would likely be added. However, if a judge did not assign that enhancement, then you are likely eligible for a sentence reduction.
Many people are understandably confused if they are considered to have caused “substantial financial hardship” but just remember, if simply having any financial victims meant you were ineligible for a reduction, then virtually no white collar offenders would be eligible.
Simply put, if at the original sentencing, a judge did not give an enhancement, then you are eligible for a reduction.
If you or your loved one may be eligible for a 2-point reduction but are confused over eligibility, please do not hesitate to reach out for a FREE consultation. We have two paralegals standing by to evaluate your information and determine if you or your loved one might be eligible for this relief.