The Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, introduced by Pat Leahy and Rand Paul, would give district judges court more flexibility in not sentencing according to a mandatory minimum. According to a report from FAMM, the act would add a new section to everyone’s favorite statute, 18 U.S.C. s 3553. Now we get 3553(g) factors!
18 U.S.C. § 3553(g).
Authority To Impose a Sentence Below a Statutory Minimum to Prevent an Unjust Sentence.–
(1) GENERAL RULE – Notwithstanding any provision of law other than this subsection, the court may impose a sentence below a statutory minimum if the court finds that it is necessary to do so in order to avoid violating the requirements of subsection (a).
(2) COURT TO GIVE PARTIES NOTICE -Before imposing a sentence under paragraph (1), the court shall give the parties reasonable notice of the court’s intent to do so and an opportunity to respond.
(3) STATEMENT IN WRITING OF FACTORS – The court shall state, in the written statement of reasons, the factors under subsection (a) that require imposition of a sentence below the statutory minimum.
(4) APPEAL RIGHTS NOT LIMITED – This subsection does not limit any right to appeal that would otherwise exist in its absence.
In other words, if a sentence would violate the 3553(a) factors, a judge *may* impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum. Currently, 3553(a) only permits variances within the guideline range, but not below the mandatory minimum. There exists now a safety valve, but it only applies to very limited circumstances (such as first-time offenders and the like).