Tulsa Attorney BlogThe Sentencing Guidelines Changed for the Crime I Committed: Can I Get Out of Federal Prison Early?

United States Sentencing Commission Comes up With Sentencing Guidelines

Video Transcribed: Can you get out of federal prison early if the sentencing guidelines change for the crime you were convicted under? My name’s Ted Hasse. I’m a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney in Oklahoma at Wirth Law Office. I handle federal criminal matters. Want to talk for a few minutes here about what happens when the sentencing guidelines change after you’ve been convicted.

Specifically, I’d like to talk about where there is the most opportunity. As an initial matter, but let me point out there’s a United States Sentencing Commission. They come up with sentencing guidelines.

Those guidelines are guidelines for federal judges who are deciding the sentence for individuals who are convicted or plead guilty to a federal crime in federal court. Judges are not required to follow those guidelines, although they are required to consider the guidelines. I’ve talked elsewhere more in-depth about that. I won’t go into that here.

wirth lawBut what happens to a lot of people, especially because people can get sentenced to very long terms under the sentencing guidelines, these sentencing guidelines get updated. And oftentimes we’re getting questions about, well, what can be done next? This falls under the broad category of post-conviction relief.

That’s something we can help people with. There are sort of two specific circumstances where there’s the best opportunity because not all changes to the sentencing guidelines will effectively be retroactive for somebody who was already sentenced. And then it can also depend on waiver of certain rights in plea agreements. I won’t get into that here. I’ll talk about plea agreements elsewhere.

But people who were convicted under sentencing guidelines regarding crack cocaine, those sentencing guidelines have been updated. And many folks have had the opportunity to have their sentence revisited and their guidelines changed based on the fact that there used to be a disparity between sentencing over powder cocaine and crack cocaine.

And any individuals who are serving a long sentence at this point, because they were sentenced under the old guidelines relating to what the sentencing enhancement was for quantities of crack cocaine, those folks have an opportunity to potentially reduce their term of incarceration.

Another group is a broader category of anybody who was sentenced under the old guidelines related to the quantity of any drug. Methamphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, heroin, there was years ago a revision to the sentencing guidelines that on average impacted most defendants by a two-point adjustment on the offense level for the sentencing guidelines for quantity of drugs for which they were convicted.

Obviously, usually, this is going to be a situation where somebody is involved in distribution, where it would be most impactful. I’ve seen a study that showed that that adjustment to the guidelines has meant somewhere in the range of a 17% adjustment on most convicted individuals, 17% adjustment on their total time that they would have to serve in federal prison.

If you are one of those individuals or you have a loved one who may benefit from the new sentencing guidelines, that’s something that you would need to take in front of a court so you’ll need a lawyer. This is something that we’re happy to talk to people about.

Please feel free to give us a call if you need a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, or If you any have questions, call (918) 932-2800.

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