Downward Departures From The Federal Sentencing Guidelines

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Report to the Congress:DOWNWARD DEPARTURES FROM THEFEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES(in response to section 401(m) of Public Law 108-21)UNITED STATES SENTENCING COMMISSIONOctober 2003

DOWNWARD DEPARTURES FROM THEFEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES(in response to section 401(m) of Public Law 108-21)Diana E. MurphyChairRuben CastilloVice ChairWilliam K. Sessions, IIIVice ChairJohn R. SteerVice ChairRicardo H. HinojosaCommissionerMichael E. HorowitzCommissionerMichael E. O’NeillCommissionerEric Jaso(ex officio)Edward F. Reilly, Jr.(ex officio)

TABLE OF CONTENTSEXECUTIVE SUMMARY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iChapter 1INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1A.AUTHORITY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1B.DEPARTURE AUTHORITY IN THE FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES SYSTEM . . . . . . . . . 21.Statutory Authority Prior to the PROTECT Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22.Guideline Authority . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33.Koon v. United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5C.THE PROTECT ACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71.Kidnapping and Child Sex Offenses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82.Statutory Procedural Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93.Directives to the Department of Justice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104.Objections to and Appeals of Downward Departures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115.Charging and Plea Bargaining Policies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136.Early Disposition or Fast Track Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15D.COMMISSION IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROTECT ACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161.Commission Actions Prior to Enactment of the PROTECT Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162.Commission Actions within 180 Days of Enactment of the PROTECT Act . . . 173.Ongoing Commission Review . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21E.ORGANIZATION OF REPORT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22Chapter 2SENTENCING DATA COLLECTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24A.SENTENCING DOCUMENTATION SUBMISSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24B.DEPARTURE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN STATEMENT OF REASONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26C.PROTECT ACT REMEDIES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27Chapter 3ANALYSIS OF COMMISSION SENTENCING DATA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31A.TRENDS IN DOWNWARD DEPARTURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 311.Judicial Districts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 322.Offense Type . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 373.Citizenship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 404.Downward Departure Reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41B.ANALYSIS OF DOWNWARD DEPARTURE REASONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 441.Fast Track . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 442.Deportation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 443.General Mitigating Circumstances (§5K2.0) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454.Pursuant to Plea Agreement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 465.Criminal History (§4A1.3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 476.Aberrant Behavior (§5K2.20) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50

7.8.9.Family Ties and Responsibilities (§5H1.6) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50Diminished Capacity (§5K2.13) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51Chapter Two Departures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51Chapter 4CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE INCREASING RATE OF CASES SENTENCED BELOWTHE GUIDELINE RANGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53A.APPELLATE REVIEW OF SENTENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 531.Impact of Koon v. United States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 542.PROTECT Act Remedies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 563.Greater Emphasis on Appeals by the Department of Justice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57B.ROLE OF THE GOVERNMENT AT SENTENCING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 591.Government Initiated Downward Departures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 592.PROTECT Act Remedy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61C.EARLY DISPOSITION OR FAST TRACK PROGRAMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 611.Impact of Increasing Immigration Offense Caseload . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 622.Extent of Fast Track Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 643.Early Disposition Programs Pursuant to the PROTECT Act . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65D.ASSESSING DOWNWARD DEPARTURES IN A BROADER CONTEXT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67Chapter 5COMMISSION ACTIONS TO REDUCE THE INCIDENCE OF DOWNWARDDEPARTURES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71A.RECENT COMMISSION ACTIONS PRIOR TO ENACTMENT OF THE PROTECT ACT . . . . . . 71B.IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROTECT ACT WITHIN 180 DAYS OF ENACTMENT . . . . . . . . 721.General Features of the Emergency Amendment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 732.Revisions to §5K2.0 (Grounds for Departure) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 743.Revisions to Chapter Five, Part H (Specific Offense Characteristics) . . . . . . . . 754.Revisions to Chapter Five, Part K (Departures) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 765.Revisions to Chapter Four (Criminal History) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 786.Revisions to Chapter Six (Sentencing Procedures and Plea Agreements) . . . . . 797.Revisions to Chapter One (Introduction and General Application Principles) . . 798.Creation of §5K3.1 ( Early Disposition Programs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79C.COMMISSION ACTIONS TO REDUCE INCIDENCE OF DEPARTURES BEYOND 180 DAY TIMEFRAME OF THE PROTECT ACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80APPENDIXA.B.C.Commission Emergency Amendment Effective October 27, 2003 . . . . . . . . . A-1Legislative History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . B-1Data Sources and Methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C-1

EXECUTIVE SUMMARYA.INTRODUCTIONThe United States Sentencing Commission submits this report in direct response tosection 401(m) of the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation ofChildren Today Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-21 [the “PROTECT Act”], and as part of itsoverall fifteen year review of the federal sentencing guidelines. The PROTECT Act was enactedon April 30, 2003, and directed the Commission, not later than 180 days after the enactment ofthe Act, to promulgate appropriate amendments to the sentencing guidelines, policy statements,and official commentary to ensure, among other things, that the incidence of downwarddepartures is substantially reduced.B.FINDINGSIn preparing this report, the Commission: (1) considered the legislative history of theSentencing Reform Act of 1984 and other sentencing legislation, with particular emphasis on therole of departures (see Appendix B); (2) identified particular concerns regarding downwarddepartures as raised by Congress in the PROTECT Act; (3) conducted an extensive empiricalstudy of frequently cited reasons for downward departures during fiscal year 2001; (4) revieweddeparture case law and literature; (5) solicited and weighed public comment; and (6) held twopublic hearings at which the Commission received testimony from the Department of Justice,judges, federal defenders and prosecutors, and experts in the criminal law on downwarddepartures generally and early disposition or “fast track” programs specifically.Using this information and data, the Commission: (1) considered the general purposes ofsentencing identified by Congress in the Sentencing Reform Act (see 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2));(2) identified specific congressional concerns regarding departure decisions; and (3) evaluateddeparture provisions throughout the Guidelines Manual in light of those general and specificconcerns.1.Departures Perform Important Functions in the Guideline SystemThe balance that the Sentencing Reform Act sought to strike between the goals ofcertainty and uniformity in sentencing and the need to retain sufficient flexibility to individualizesentences is reflected in part by 18 U.S.C. § 3553(b) (Application of guidelines in imposing asentence), which codifies the limited authority of sentencing courts to impose a sentence outsidethe sentencing guideline range:The court shall impose a sentence of the kind, and within the range, referred to insubsection (a)(4) unless the court finds that there exists an aggravating ori

mitigating circumstance of a kind, or to a degree, not adequately taken intoconsideration by the Sentencing Commission in formulating the guidelines thatshould result in a sentence different from that described.Departures play an important role in the federal sentencing guidelines system for severalreasons. There may be offense guidelines that do not specify a sentence adjustment for aparticular circumstance because either it occurs infrequently in connection with a particularoffense, is difficult to quantify, or is truly unique. When such a circumstance does occur,however, it may be important and could be accounted for only by permitting the court to departfrom the guidelines.Departure decisions also provide the Commission with important feedback from courtsregarding the operation of the guidelines and improve its ability to make ongoing refinements tothe sentencing guidelines. Frequent or increasing use of departures for a particular offense, forexample, might indicate that the guideline for that offense does not adequately take into accounta particular recurring circumstance.2.Statutory Requirements Enacted by the PROTECT Act Are Expected to Have aBroad Impact on Departure PracticesThe PROTECT Act enacted several procedural requirements that should have a broadand substantial impact on departure practices.First, the PROTECT Act amended 18 U.S.C. § 3553(c) (Imposition of a sentence) torequire the court to include specific written reasons for departures in the judgment andcommitment order (unless the court relied on in camera evidence under Fed. R. Crim. P. 32).Second, the PROTECT Act amended 28 U.S.C. § 994(w) to require the Chief Judge ofeach district court to ensure that, within 30 days following entry of judgment, the sentencingcourt submits to the Commission certain sentencing documents, including the Statement ofReasons for the sentence imposed, which must include, in the case of a departure, the reason fordeparture. The potential effect of these documentation requirements on the Commission’s datacollection and reporting is discussed in Chapter 2 of this report.Third, by amending 18 U.S.C. § 3742 (Review of a sentence), the PROTECT Actspecifically requires sentencing courts to base departures on a factor that advances the statutorypurposes of sentencing set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(2).Fourth, the PROTECT Act modifies appellate review for departure decisions. ThePROTECT Act now generally requires de novo review of a district court’s departure decision.Fifth, the PROTECT Act adds restrictions to limit the district courts’ discretion whensentencing upon remand. Newly enacted 18 U.S.C. § 3742(g) prohibits the district court, uponremand, from sentencing outside the applicable guideline range, except upon a ground that wasii

(i) “specifically and affirmatively” included in the written statement of reasons given by thedistrict court pursuant to section 3553(c) in connection with sentencing of the defendant prior tothe appeal and (ii) was held by the court of appeals, in remanding the case, to be a permissibleground for departure.The implications of these statutory changes are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.The noticeable increase in documentation submissions to the Commission since enactment of thePROTECT Act and comments received by the Commission in recent months suggest that theimpact of these new statutory requirements on the incidence of downward departures will besignificant.3.Newly Implemented Policies by the Department of Justice Are Expected to ImpactDeparture Practices SignificantlyThe PROTECT Act directed the Department of Justice to adopt policies that, amongother things, ensure prosecutors oppose unjustified downward departures and vigorously pursueappropriate appeals of adverse departure decisions. In response, the Department of Justice hasadopted several policies that could significantly impact departure practices.First, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutorsunderscoring prosecutors’ “affirmative obligation to oppose any sentencing adjustments,including downward departures, that are not supported by the facts and the law.” The memofurther directs prosecutors to “take all steps necessary to ensure that the district court record issufficient to permit the possibility of an appeal” of an improper departure. The Department ofJustice also set in place mandatory procedural mechanisms to facilitate appeals of departuredecisions.Second, the Attorney General issued a revised policy concerning charging and pleabargaining practices. The policy generally requires that prosecutors charge and pursue “the mostserious, readily provable offense or offenses that are supported by the facts of the case” andprovides that any sentencing recommendation contained in a plea agreement “must be fullyconsistent with the Guidelines and applicable statutes and with the readily provable facts aboutthe defendant’s history and conduct.”With respect to departures specifically, the policy states that the circumstances in whichprosecutors will request or accede to downward departures in the future will be “properlycircumscribed” and “rare.” The Department of Justice also seeks to make those instances inwhich departures are agreed to by prosecutors more transparent, providing that “[i]n those caseswhere federal prosecutors agree to support departures, they are expected to identify departuresfor the courts.”Third, the Attorney General issued a memorandum outlining the criteria for authorizationof early disposition or “fast track” programs. The memorandum provides that fast trackiii

programs are “reserved for exceptional circumstances” and are “not to be used simply to avoidthe ordinary application of the Guidelines to a particular class of cases.” The policy sets forthspecific criteria that must be met in order for a fast track program to be approved. With theexception of certain minimum requirements, however, the policy leaves discretion to the UnitedStates Attorney to decide whether the benefit to the defendant under a fast track program isgranted by departure or by agreeing not to charge or pursue the most serious readily provableoffense.The implications of these newly implemented Department of Justice policies and specificconcerns regarding fast track programs are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4.4.Missing and Unclear Sentencing Documentation Limits the Ability to DrawConclusions from Commission Departure DataIn preparing this report, the Commission became more acutely aware of the need forgreater specificity and standardization in departure documentation. The Commission isconcerned that historically it has not received a significant percentage of sentencing documentsfrom a handful of judicial districts. Furthermore, with respect to departures, Statements ofReasons submitted by sentencing courts often provide only general categorical reasons fordeparture (e.g., plea agreement) with insufficient specificity to enable the Commission tounderstand fully the sentencing court’s underlying substantive reason for departure.To emphasize the importance of written specificity regarding departure decisions, theCommission added specific documentation requirements in the Guidelines Manual to threepolicy statements, §5K2.0 (Grounds for Departure), §4A1.3 (Departures Based on Inadequacy ofCriminal History Category), and §6B1.2 (Standards for Acceptance of Plea Agreements).Requiring sentencing courts to document reasons for departure with greater specificity willcomplement the findings and documentation required of sentencing courts by the PROTECTAct, facilitate appellate review of departure decisions, and improve the Commission’s futureability to monitor departure decisions and refine the guidelines as necessary.The Commission’s data collection process is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.5.Government Initiated Departures and Southwest Border Districts Comprise aSignificant Portion of Downward DeparturesDuring consideration of the PROTECT Act, members of Congress expressed concernregarding the increasing incidence of downward departures as reported in Commission datasources. The downward departure rate for reasons other than substantial assistance to thegovernment (the “nonsubstantial assistance departure rate”) has increased from 5.8 percent infiscal year 1991 to 18.1 percent in fiscal year 2001.Based on analyses conducted for this report, the Commission estimates that thegovernment initiated approximately 40 percent of the nonsubstantial assistance downwardiv

departures granted in fiscal year 2001. See Chapter 3. If all the government initiated downwarddepartures are excluded, the remaining downward departure rate is estimated to be about 10.9percent.The Commission believes that fast track programs account for a substantial proportion ofgovernment initiated downward departures. Fast track programs were established in judicialdistricts along the southwest border to accommodate burgeoning immigration related caseloads,and sentencing data confirm that the number of federal immigration offenses increaseddramatically from 2,300 in fiscal year 1991 to 10,458 in fiscal year 2001.The Commission is unable to estimate from its sentencing data the full impact of fasttrack programs on the departure rate for several reasons. Most important, the Commissioncannot isolate fast track departures from downward departures generally because sentencingcourts do not report this information in a uniform manner.The Commission’s sentencing data, however, do indicate that the combined departurerate for judicial districts along the southwest border has increased almost four-fold, from 10.2percent in fiscal year 1991 to 38.2 percent in fiscal year 2001. See Chapter 3. Furthermore,southwest border districts account for a disproportionate number of departures. Although thenational departure rate was 18.1 percent in fiscal year 2001, if southwest border districts areexcluded, the national departure rate was 10.4 percent in fiscal year 2001. Therefore,circumstances unique to the southwest border appear to be driving the overall national departurerate significantly higher than it otherwise would be.Even excluding the southwest border from consideration due to its unique circumstances,the Commission is concerned about the unmistakable steady increase in the departure rate for therest of the nation, from 5.8 percent in fiscal year 1991 to 10.4 percent in fiscal year 2001. Inrecent years, the Commission has had a heightened awareness about the increasing incidence ofdownward departures and has taken action to address several specific areas of concern, includingspecifying minimum requirements for departures based on “aberrant behavior,” prohibitingdepartures for post-sentencing rehabilitative efforts, and extensively revising the illegal reentryguidelines.C.COMMISSION IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROTECT ACTThe PROTECT Act made direct congressional amendments to the sentencing guidelinesto restrict the availability of departures for certain child crimes and sex offenses. TheCommission implemented those changes and, as directed, distributed those guidelineamendments on April 30, 2003.On October 8, 2003, the Commission unanimously adopted an emergency amendmenteffective October 27, 2003, implementing the PROTECT Act directives. The emergencyamendment is discussed in more detail in Chapter 5 and is set forth in its entirety in Appendix Av

of this report. The amendment prohibits several factors as grounds for departure, restricts theavailability of certain other departures, clarifies when certain departures are appropriate, andlimits the extent of departure permissible for certain offenders.Among the newly forbidden grounds for departure are: the defendant’s acceptance of responsibility for the offense; the defendant’s aggravating or mitigating role in the offense; the defendant’s decision, by itself, to plead guilty to the offense or to enter into aplea agreement with respect to the offense; the defendant’s fulfillment of restitution obligations only to the extent required bylaw, including the guidelines; the defendant’s addiction to gambling; the defendant’s aberrant behavior if the defendant has any significant priorcriminal behavior, even if the prior conduct was not a federal or state felonyconviction; the defendant’s aberrant behavior if the defendant is subject to a mandatoryminimum term of imprisonment of five years or more for a drug traffickingoffense, regardless of whether the defendant meets the “safety valve” criteria at§5C1.2 (Limitation on Applicability of Statutory Mandatory Minimum Sentencesin Certain Cases); the overrepresentation by the defendant’s criminal history category of theseriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendantwill commit other crimes, if the defendant is an armed career criminal within themeaning of §4B1.4 (Armed Career Criminal); and the overrepresentation by the defendant’s criminal history category of theseriousness of the defendant’s criminal history or the likelihood that the defendantwill commit other crimes, if the defendant is a repeat and dangerous sex offenderagainst minors within the meaning of §4B1.5 (Repeat and Dangerous SexOffender Against Minors).The amendment also imposes increased restrictions on the availability of departures based on: multiple circumstances (previously referred to as a combination of factors);vi

the defendant’s family ties and responsibilities, particularly if the basis forconsideration is financial or caretaking responsibilities; victim’s conduct; coercion and duress; and diminished capacity.In addition, the amendment impacts sentencing courts’ authority in more general ways byrestructuring departure authority throughout the Guidelines Manual, particularly in §5K2.0(Grounds for Departure), to track more closely both the statutory criteria for imposing a sentenceoutside the guideline sentencing range and the newly enacted statutory requirement that reasonsfor departure be stated with specificity in the written order of judgment and commitment.The Commission also added a new policy statement regarding early dispositionprograms, §5K3.1 (Early Disposition Programs), that restates the language contained in thedirective at section 401(m)(2)(B) of the PROTECT Act. The new policy statement provides that,upon motion of the Government, the court may depart downward not more than four offenselevels pursuant to an early disposition program authorized by the Attorney General of the UnitedStates and the United States Attorney for the district in which the court resides. TheCommission determined that implementing the directive in this unfettered manner is appropriateat this time, notwithstanding several concerns discussed in Chapter 4 and pending further studyand monitoring of the implementation of such programs.The Commission believes that the actions taken in this amendment will complement themany statutory and guideline changes enacted by the PROTECT Act, and the recent policiesregarding appeals, fast track, and plea bargaining implemented by the Department of Justice,to substantially reduce the incidence of downward departures. The Commission workeddiligently within the 180 day time frame established by the PROTECT Act to implement thedirective, but its efforts in this area will continue.The Commission is continuing to work on several specific areas that affect the incidenceof departures, including potential refinements to the criminal history calculations to take intoaccount data now becoming available from the Commission’s multi-year recidivism study,possible elimination of aberrant behavior departures, consideration of general collateralconsequences of incarceration, and amendments to immigration guidelines. More generally, theCommission continues to review departure provisions throughout the Guidelines Manual and toconsider whether circumstances warranting departure should be incorporated as guidelineadjustments.vii

Chapter 1INTRODUCTIONA.AUTHORITYThe United States Sentencing Commission submits this report in direct response tosection 401(m) of the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to end the Exploitation ofChildren Today Act of 2003, Pub. L. No. 108-21 [the “PROTECT Act”], and as part of itsoverall fifteen year review of the federal sentencing guidelines. The PROTECT Act was enactedon April 30, 2003, and directed the Commission, not later than 180 days after the enactment ofthe Act, to:(1) review the grounds of downward departure that are authorized by thesentencing guidelines, policy statements, and official commentary of the SentencingCommission; and(2) promulgate, pursuant to section 994 of title 28, United States Code –(A) appropriate amendments to the sentencing guidelines, policystatements, and official commentary to ensure that the incidence of downwarddepartures are [sic] substantially reduced;(B) a policy statement authorizing a downward departure of not more than4 levels if the Government files a motion for such departure pursuant to an earlydisposition program authorized by the Attorney General and the United StatesAttorney; and(C) any other conforming amendments to the sentencing guidelines, policystatements, and official commentary of the Sentencing Commission necessitatedby this Act, including a revision of paragraph 4(b) of part A of chapter 1 and arevision of section 5K2.0.In addition, section 401(j)(2) of the PROTECT Act directs that the Commission, on or beforeMay 1, 2005, “shall not promulgate any amendment to the sentencing guidelines, policystatements, or official commentary of the Sentencing Commission that . . . adds any new groundsfor departure to Part K of Chapter 5.”The PROTECT Act directives do not require an accompanying report, but theCommission submits this report pursuant to both its general statutory authority under 28 U.S.C.1

§§ 994–95 and its specific responsibility under 28 U.S.C. § 995(a)(20) to advise Congress onsentencing policy.1B.DEPARTURE AUTHORITY IN THE FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES SYSTEM1.Statutory Authority Prior to the PROTECT ActThe overarching principles of the federal sentencing guideline system were outlined byCongress in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984.2 The Sentencing Reform Act directed theCommission to establish sentencing policies and practices for the federal criminal justice systemthat:provide certainty and fairness in meeting the purposes of sentencing, avoidingunwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with similar records whohave been found guilty of similar criminal conduct while maintaining sufficientflexibility to permit individualized sentences when warranted by mitigating oraggravating factors not taken into account in the establishment of generalsentencing practices . . . .31The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 created the Commission as an independent agency in thejudicial branch of government. Pub. L. No. 98-473, 98 Stat. 1837 (1984). The Sentencing Reform Actdirected the Commission to establish and maintain sentencing policies and practices for the federalcriminal justice system through a detailed framework of sentencing guidelines. See generally 28 U.S.C. §994 (Duties of the commission) (West Supp. 2003). In addition, the Sentencing Reform Act requires theCommission to monitor and report periodically on the operation of the sentencing guidelines and givesthe Commission ongoing sentencing and crime policy research responsibilities. See 28 U.S.C. §995(a)(8), (9), (12)(A), (13)–(16), (21) (2003).

PROTECT Act now generally requires de novo review of a district court’s departure decision. Fifth, the PROTECT Act adds restrictions to limit the district courts’ discretion when sentencing upon remand. Newly enacted 18 U.S.C. § 3742(g) prohibits the district court