Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013

March 20th, 2013

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).