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H.R. 3382 (113th): Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013

The Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014 adjusts federal mandatory sentencing guidelines for a variety of crimes in an effort to reduce the size of the current U.S. prison population and costs associated with it. It reduces the mandatory sentences for drug offenses and expands the ability of non-violent offenders to reduce their sentences under the federal “safety valve.” The bill enables federal prisoners to seek retroactive sentence adjustment under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.

The bill affirms that these steps are in line with the U.S. Sentencing Commission mandate to “minimize the likelihood that the Federal prison population will exceed the capacity of the Federal prisons.” The bill also directs the Justice Department to issue a report outlining the reduced expenditures and cost savings as a result of the Smarter Sentencing Act within six months of its passing.

Congressmen Labrador [R-ID1] and Scott [D-VA3] introduced the bipartisan bill as a cost-cutting measure, citing the ballooning federal prison population, nearly half of which is incarcerated for drug offenses. They argue that the bill “will improve justice, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and actually improve safety by enabling the justice system to focus on the most violent offenders.”

A similar bill exists in the Senate that was sponsored by Senators Durbin [D-IL] and Lee [R-UT]. The bill contains the same sentencing changes for drug based offenses and transparency initiatives, but has additional sections that amend sentencing guidelines for sex crime and arms trafficking that were added to the Senate version after it cleared committee.

To reduce sentences for drug offenses, the act reduces the current minimum sentences for drug related crimes. 20 year minimum sentences are reduced to 10 years, 10 year minimums to 5, and 5 year minimums to 2. The reductions apply to offenses covered under the Controlled Substances Act and Controlled Substance Import and Export Act involving marijuana, cocaine, heroin, PCP, LSD, methamphetamines, or a counterfeit of these substances.

To reduce the current federal prison population, the act widens the applicability of the federal “safety valve” which affords judges discretion in assigning sentences to non-violent offenders with a limited criminal history to receive sentences below the federally established minimums. Currently only those with 0 or 1 criminal history points can receive this opportunity. The Smarter Sentencing Act would expand it to individuals with up to 2 points. It would also alow the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which eliminated the 5 year mandatory minimum sentence for first-time possession of crack cocaine, to be applied retroactively to currently incarcerated individuals who have not previously had their sentences decreased.

To increase transparency, the bill requires all federal agencies to publish public indexes of federal statutory and regulatory offenses that fall under their jurisdiction within two years of the bill’s passing.

Last updated Oct 2, 2014. View all GovTrack summaries.

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Oct 30, 2013.

Smarter Sentencing Act of 2013 - Amends the federal criminal code to direct the court to impose a sentence for specified controlled substance offenses without regard to any statutory minimum sentence if the court finds that the criminal history category for the defendant is not higher than category two. (Currently, the court may disregard the statutory minimum if the defendant does not have more than one criminal history point.)

Authorizes a court that imposed a sentence for a crack cocaine possession or trafficking offense committed before August 3, 2010, on motion of the defendant, the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, the attorney for the government, or the court, to impose a reduced sentence as if provisions of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 were in effect at the time such offense was committed.

Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (CSIEA) to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, possessing, importing, or exporting specified controlled substances.

Directs the Commission to review and amend its guidelines and policy statements applicable to persons convicted of such an offense under the CSA and CSIEA to ensure consistency with this Act and to consider specified factors, including: (1) its mandate to formulate guidelines to minimize the likelihood that the federal prison population will exceed federal prison capacity, (2) fiscal implications of changes, (3) relevant public safety concerns, (4) the intent of Congress that penalties for violent and serious drug traffickers who present public safety risks remain appropriately severe, and (5) the need to reduce and prevent racial disparities in sentencing.

Requires the Attorney General to report on how the reduced expenditures on federal corrections and cost savings resulting from this Act will be used to help reduce overcrowding, increase investment in law enforcement and crime prevention, and reduce recidivism.