2009 FEDERAL SENTENCING GUIDELINES MANUAL
CHAPTER 3 - PART B - ROLE IN THE OFFENSE
§3B1.2. Mitigating Role
Based on the defendant’s role in the offense, decrease the offense level as follows:
(a) If the defendant was a minimal participant in any criminal activity, decrease by 4 levels.
(b) If the defendant was a minor participant in any criminal activity, decrease by 2 levels.
In cases falling between (a) and (b), decrease by 3 levels.
1. Definition.—For purposes of this guideline, "participant" has the meaning given that term in Application Note 1 of §3B1.1 (Aggravating Role).
2. Requirement of Multiple Participants.—This guideline is not applicable unless more than one participant was involved in the offense. See the Introductory Commentary to this Part (Role in the Offense). Accordingly, an adjustment under this guideline may not apply to a defendant who is the only defendant convicted of an offense unless that offense involved other participants in addition to the defendant and the defendant otherwise qualifies for such an adjustment.
3. Applicability of Adjustment.—
(A) Substantially Less Culpable than Average Participant.—This section provides a range of adjustments for a defendant who plays a part in committing the offense that makes him substantially less culpable than the average participant.
A defendant who is accountable under §1B1.3 (Relevant Conduct) only for the conduct in which the defendant personally was involved and who performs a limited function in concerted criminal activity is not precluded from consideration for an adjustment under this guideline. For example, a defendant who is convicted of a drug trafficking offense, whose role in that offense was limited to transporting or storing drugs and who is accountable under §1B1.3 only for the quantity of drugs the defendant personally transported or stored is not precluded from consideration for an adjustment under this guideline.
(B) Conviction of Significantly Less Serious Offense.—If a defendant has received a lower offense level by virtue of being convicted of an offense significantly less serious than warranted by his actual criminal conduct, a reduction for a mitigating role under this section ordinarily is not warranted because such defendant is not substantially less culpable than a defendant whose only conduct involved the less serious offense. For example, if a defendant whose actual conduct involved a minimal role in the distribution of 25 grams of cocaine (an offense having a Chapter Two offense level of level 14 under §2D1.1 (Unlawful Manufacturing, Importing, Exporting, or Trafficking (Including Possession with Intent to Commit These Offenses); Attempt or Conspiracy)) is convicted of simple possession of cocaine (an offense having a Chapter Two offense level of level 6 under §2D2.1 (Unlawful Possession; Attempt or Conspiracy)), no reduction for a mitigating role is warranted because the defendant is not substantially less culpable than a defendant whose only conduct involved the simple possession of cocaine.
(C) Fact-Based Determination.—The determination whether to apply subsection (a) or subsection (b), or an intermediate adjustment, involves a determination that is heavily dependent upon the facts of the particular case. As with any other factual issue, the court, in weighing the totality of the circumstances, is not required to find, based solely on the defendant’s bare assertion, that such a role adjustment is warranted.
4. Minimal Participant.—Subsection (a) applies to a defendant described in Application Note 3(A) who plays a minimal role in concerted activity. It is intended to cover defendants who are plainly among the least culpable of those involved in the conduct of a group. Under this provision, the defendant’s lack of knowledge or understanding of the scope and structure of the enterprise and of the activities of others is indicative of a role as minimal participant. It is intended that the downward adjustment for a minimal participant will be used infrequently.
5. Minor Participant.— Subsection (b) applies to a defendant described in Application Note 3(A) who is less culpable than most other participants, but whose role could not be described as minimal.
6. Application of Role Adjustment in Certain Drug Cases.—In a case in which the court applied §2D1.1 and the defendant’s base offense level under that guideline was reduced by operation of the maximum base offense level in §2D1.1(a)(5), the court also shall apply the appropriate adjustment under this guideline.
Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 456); November 1, 2001 (see Appendix C, amendment 635); November 1, 2002 (see Appendix C, amendment 640); November 1, 2009 (see Appendix C, amendment 737).