Synopsis of USSG 4C1.1 – Zero Point Offender Adjustment

December 22, 2023

The United States Sentencing Commission recently adopted a significant amendment to its Guidelines Manual, notably the addition of Section 4C1.1 – the Zero-Point Offender Adjustment. This amendment, effective from November 1, 2023, is set to have a substantial impact on the sentencing of some first-time offenders, potentially triggering numerous post-sentencing motions, including for white-collar defendants​

The Zero-Point Offender Adjustment, as outlined in Section 4C1.1, offers a two-level reduction in the recommended advisory guideline range for defendants with no prior criminal history. This adjustment aligns with revisions to the § 5C1.1 Commentary, which advises courts to consider non-imprisonment sentences for defendants receiving this adjustment​

Eligibility for this adjustment requires defendants to have no prior criminal history points and not fall under several specified categories, such as having committed a terrorism-related offense, violence, sex offenses, substantial financial hardship causation, firearm or dangerous weapon involvement, civil rights offenses, hate crimes, or being part of a continuing criminal enterprise​

The new Commentary for § 5C1.1 also includes a presumption against imprisonment for defendants who receive the Zero-Point Offender Adjustment and have a guideline range within Zones A or B. It advises that non-imprisonment sentences are generally appropriate for these defendants, extending this consideration even to those whose guideline range falls outside of Zones A or B if the adjustment is received and the guideline range is deemed to overstate the gravity of the offense​

The retroactive application of this adjustment is still under consideration. If applied retroactively, it could enable individuals already imprisoned and eligible at the time of their sentencing to move for reduced sentences, potentially affecting over 7,000 individuals in custody, with about 1,200 of them eligible for immediate release​

This amendment represents a potential lifeline for many defendants, particularly those in white-collar cases, to avoid or reduce prison time. It provides a significant opportunity for a material reduction in the offense level under the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and opens avenues for arguing against imprisonment​

If you have been charged in federal court, contact the Law Offices of John D. Rogers to schedule a consultation with an experienced Orange County federal crimes attorney.

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