Federal crack cocaine offenders sentenced after November 1 will get sentences about 25 percent lower on average as a result of the changes made to the advisory federal sentencing guidelines yesterday by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the commission estimates. The panel acted to comply with the federal law enacted last year that reduced the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.
The commission set the triggering quantities of crack cocaine for the five and 10-year mandatory minimum penalties (28 grams and 280 grams, respectively) at levels that correspond to a recommended sentencing range of 63-78 months and 121-151 months, respectively, for a defendant with little or no criminal history. The commission will hold a hearing June 1 on whether the cocaine-sentencing amendment should apply retroactively. Also yesterday, the panel increased recommended penalties for some firearms offenses, including some “straw purchasers” of firearms and for offenders who illegally traffic firearms across the U.S. border.