Amendments Don’t Fix Economic Crimes Guidelines

May 5, 2015
The Legal Intelligencer

Types : Bylined Articles

When the U.S. Sentencing Commission adopted the original Sentencing Guidelines in 1987, it sought to ensure that white-collar offenders faced “short but definite period[s] of confinement,” according to its review, “Fifteen Years of Guidelines Sentencing.” Over the last 25 years, however, the commission has abandoned this goal and, without any empirical basis, steadily increased the prison terms for economic crimes. As a result of undue emphasis on the amount of loss and multiple specific offense characteristics, first-time, nonviolent offenders often face guidelines ranges equivalent to those of serious violent offenders. (For example, per U.S.S.G. Section 2B1.1 (2012), an officer or director of a public company convicted of a $7 million securities fraud offense will face an offense level of 43 and an advisory guidelines range of life without parole with these enhancements: six levels for 250 or more victims; two levels for sophisticated means; four levels for being an officer or director; and four levels for his or her role in the offense. Meanwhile, Section 2A1.3 imposes an offense level of 29 for voluntary manslaughter and Section 2A2.1 imposes an offense level of 33 for assault with intent to murder.)


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