Changes to Federal Sentencing Guidelines


The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently unanimously voted to adopt new amendments to the U.S. sentencing guidelines. While the amendments addressed various issues, a major portion of the amendments dealt with the explosion in the usage of synthetic drugs, many of which were not addressed in the previous version of the guidelines.

First, the Commission adopted a new definition of “fentanyl analogue,” which effectively increased the guideline penalties for knowingly misrepresenting or marketing fentanyl or fentanyl analogues as another substance. This change places fentanyl analogues at a level that is more consistent with the current penalty structure.

Next, the amendments created two new classes of synthetic drugs: synthetic cathinones (bath salts) and synthetic cannabinoids (K2 and spice, among others). The Commission also established drug ratios and minimum offense levels for these classes of drugs. Since the synthetic cathinones possess a common chemical structure and the synthetic cannabinoids results in similar biological responses and pharmacological effects, the Commission was able to classify the synthetic drugs in this manner.

The guidelines also now contain an application note that judges should consider alternative sentencing options for non-violent first offenders whose guideline ranges fall within certain zones. These are individuals with no prior convictions and who did not use violence, credible threats of violence, or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon in the commission of the offense.

judge holding scales of justice

Changes to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Additionally, the amendments increase offense levels for certain Social Security fraud offenses to incorporate statutory changes spurned by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. There also is an enhancement and establishment of a minimum offense level for individuals who have violated certain positions of trust, including health care providers and claims representatives.

As this post indicates, changes to the federal sentencing guidelines have resulted in more severe punishments for certain offenses and specifically recognize new classes of synthetic drugs. The federal criminal defense lawyers of Peek Law Group have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing federal and state federal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 399-2311 to set up an appointment with our Texas criminal defense attorneys today.

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